Nigerian Authorities warn airlines over fuel contamination incidents

 Monday, July 17, 2023

A recent discovery of significant quantities of water-contaminated fuel within an aircraft has resulted in the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) commencing an investigation across the country’s airports and fuel suppliers to identify the root cause of this issue.

However, the NCAA has alerted airlines operating flights to and from Nigeria to be vigilant about refueling aircraft in order to ensure fuel quality is up to the industry standard.

The discovery of contaminated fuel

The issue was first discovered when a Max Air Boeing 737-300 earlier this month experienced the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) shutting down due to fuel contamination.

This happened while the aircraft was on the ground at Yola International Airport (YOL).

A news agency reports that fuel was dumped onto the airport apron, during which time multiple drums of water were collected from both aircraft tanks.

Since the airline, prior to the discovery, had purchased fuel from Lagos, Abuja, and Kano airports, the NCAA requires fuel suppliers to carry out water checks.

Reports suggest that while the NCAA is investigating the source of the contaminated fuel, it will additionally examine the browsers and fuel procedures of Max Air to ensure the airline was following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place.

Furthermore, it is reported that any party identified as having issues will have their license to operate suspended. As an additional precaution, the petroleum regulatory agency in Nigeria will also be consulted to ensure the problem has been solved.

Risks of water contamination

As noted by Acorn Welding, water is the most common cause of fuel contamination within aircraft fuel tanks.

This poses safety risks to flight operations, increasing the chance of the water freezing, blocking fuel lines, and damaging the fuel pumps.

This is primarily because the fuel, unlike water, would be treated for use at various operational conditions and temperatures, resulting in the contaminated water freezing unexpectedly and affecting the operation of the system.

If the system gets blocked, the fuel supply to the engine could stop, resulting in the engine shutting down, which presents its own set of challenges during a flight.

Ultimately, the presence of water in fuel will severely degrade the fuel quality.

IATA’s Fuel Quality Pool

Aside from the checks carried out by regulators, airlines also inspect fuel. While airlines can individually check the fuel, they also have the option of joining IATA’s Fuel Quality Pool (IFQP) program.

This program ensures that fuel facilities meet the regulatory requirements by sharing the workload of inspecting facilities among airlines jointly serving airports.

This provides advantages for the airlines and the fuel suppliers as this program reduces repetitive inspection of fuel at airports, as all quality reports are shared among member airlines.

Additionally, the inspections are more effective because of the stringent evaluation criteria set up by the pool.

Moreover, the IFQP reduces workload and expenses by 85% for participating member airlines and fuel suppliers.

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