The future of lead in Avgas

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has proposed further regulatory control of the lead additive (tetraethyllead – TEL) used in Avgas 100LL.

Air BP recognises the need to address environmental concerns around TEL in Avgas, while maintaining supply of an aviation industry approved fuel grade during the development phase of an alternative product. To understand the potential impact, and what input we have provided to the ECHA’s public consultation, we spoke to Dr. Alisdair Clark, Aviation Fuels Research and Development Manager, Air BP.

What has been proposed by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)?

ECHA has proposed further regulatory control for the additive tetraethyllead (TEL) which is used for the octane enhancement of leaded Avgas (which includes Avgas 100LL). TEL has been on their candidate list of substances of very high concern (SVHC) since 2012.  ECHA employ this list to closely monitor on-going uses of such chemicals while encouraging the development of alternative products. Further control could impact the availability of TEL in the future.

Is this similar to the approach taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States?

Yes, the EPA have also identified the use of TEL in leaded Avgas as a concern.

What action is being taken by the General Aviation Industry to help?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are leading industry efforts to develop a high-octane unleaded Avgas (which would be a direct replacement for Avgas 100LL) under the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative programme. This was due to be completed by the end of 2018 but has met many technical challenges and is now delayed to 2020.

What would be the impact of a restriction on the availability of TEL?

Approximately 34% of European piston aircraft require a high-octane leaded grade for safe operation. This is typical across the world. At the moment, all approved high-octane Avgas grades require the use of TEL.

Would any future restriction only impact Europe?

The majority of the global TEL supply currently comes from a European manufacturer. Therefore, any future restriction may impact Avgas 100LL production globally.

What is Air BP doing to find an alternative for TEL in leaded Avgas?

Finding a replacement for TEL in leaded Avgas is a global challenge as the aviation industry aspires to transition to an unleaded fuel. Air BP has contributed to unleaded Avgas research for many years. We currently sell an unleaded Avgas product (UL91) in several locations in Europe and are planning to expand availability in 2019.

Is the unleaded avgas product (UL91) we supply impacted by this proposal?

No. UL91 does not include TEL and therefore is not impacted.

What will happen next in relation to this proposal?

Air BP have provided comments to the public consultation on the inclusion of TEL in the authorisation list. This consultation closes on 5 December, 2018. There is currently no defined timeframe for any future decisions or restrictions. We will be closely monitoring the decision on TEL going forward and will keep you up-to-date with any impact this may have.