UND hosts Ethanol in Aviation Conference

May 21-22 event examines the history, current research, future of aviation-grade ethanol-blended fuel
By | April 01, 2002
In 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier using ethanol in his fuel tank. More than fifty years later, ethanol may be the fuel that breaks the barriers to removing lead from general aviation gasoline, say the organizers of next month's Ethanol in Aviation Conference, May 21-22, at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

The event is presented by UND Areospace, UND's Energy & Environmental Research Center, South Dakota State University, the American Coalition for Ethanol, Great Planes Fuel Development, and the North Dakota Corn Growers Association. The conference will examine the history, current research, and the future of ethanol in aviation.

"This conference is unique because most conferences of this type are either aviation specific or fuel specific," said Great Planes Fuels Development president Jim Behnken. "The Ethanol in Aviation Conference attempts to bridge the two together."

Behnken, along with EERC researcher Ted Aulich, is scheduled to lead a panel discussion at the conference on the topic of standards and procedures for aviation ethanol. He is an advocate of an 15% aviation ethanol blend called AGE 85 - a promising blend developed by EERC and South Dakota State University researchers.

Since 1970, 100LL aviation gasoline has been the lone exception to federal laws that ban the use of tetra-ethyl lead (TEL) in motor fuels. As TEL has become more expensive and EPA patience for its removal wears thin, the search for alternatives to 100LL has intensified. Aviation-grade ethanol - specifically AGE 85 - has come to the forefront as a high-octane fuel that can safely power aircraft piston engines with little modification to the engines. Interestingly, AGE 85 contains a small amount of biodiesel as well, which acts as an anti-corrosive agent and adds a touch of lubricity to the fuel.

"Actually, we have discovered that the commercial additives that are being used widely are inadequate anticorrosive agents," Behnken told Ethanol Producer Magazine. "Instead, we have added biodiesel, which has proven extremely effective."

Joining Behnken and Aulich in Grand Forks is a diverse consortium of presenters, ranging from ethanol-in-aviation pioneer Max Shauck to Phillips 66 Aviation marketers Mark Wagner and Vernon Triebel.

Along with Bruce Smith, dean of UND Areospace Sciences, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven - vice chair of the Governors' Ethanol Coalition - will speak at the opening reception of the conference. n