Construction for the new bulk fuel storage facility is underway and slated to be fully operational early 2016. The new facility will replace the existing facility on Forbes Ave. and Lancaster Blvd. that was built in the 1950s.
The new bulk storage will include two 15,000 barrel tanks on the northern end of the flightline. The old facility houses a 10,000 and 20,000 barrel storage tank, but can only be filled three-quarters full due to their age and seismic rating.
According to Cliff Cunningham, 412th Logistics Readiness Squadron, fuels technical advisor, fuel is transported to Edwards primarily by pipeline. The line runs from Riverside, Calif.,†to Nellis AFB,†Nev.,†and Edwards AFB is an off-shoot of that line.
“If anything ever happens to the pipeline, we have to get the fuel by tank trucks, but right now, we would need like 20 trucks a day,” said Cunningham.
Each of those trucks would take about†1 hour and 45 minutes each to off-load and would have to be done one at a time. The new facility will be able to off-load four tank trucks in 30 minutes, filling two at a time with 600 gallons of fuel per minute.
After reaching the bulk storage facility, the fuel is filtered several times and transported by pipeline to a small chiller system along the flightline where it is loaded into trucks that will carry the fuel to the aircraft. Sometimes, however, it is necessary for the trucks to access the bulk storage, which means traveling through populated areas and leaving the flightline reducing time efficiency.
With the new system, the trucks will never leave the flightline and can fill up at twice the speed.
“It’s a world of difference between [the old bulk storage] and what we’re going to have,” said Cunningham. “This was built up here on the hill and it was really a good idea back in the 50s. It was built up on this hill because there were no pumps. They used gravity to feed everything, so if you ever had a power outage you could still move the fuel because gravity did it.”
The problem is that the old system was designed with 3,000 gallon trucks in mind and the trucks used to carry fuel to the flightline today are twice that size. The base has also developed significantly since the old bulk storage units were built.
“It’s much safer to keep the trucks away from public roads and keep them on the flightline because they’re not built for public roads,” said Cunningham.
The new system will also be designed more efficiently. With the current system, the fuel moves into one of two tanks and then travels through separate pipelines to their destination. The new construction will be “like a loop” allowing the fuel to move to any necessary location, such as the chiller on the flightline or it can be returned to bulk storage from any other location on base.
Once the new system is complete, the old area will be used for storing and testing specialty fuels. One tank and skid will remain in place for storing JP-8 fuel used in the B-52 and Global Hawk. Four smaller tank systems will be placed in a containment dike for testing synthetic fuels.
“To do the test you need fuel without any additive in it so it has to be stored separate, so we’ll have four tanks put up here in the containment that will store special fuel,” said Cunningham. “We’ve tested all types of synthetic fuels, fuel made from coal, fuel made from natural gas, fuel made from animal fat, fuel made from plant oils and the next one we’re going to test is from alcohol to jet [fuel]. They’re going to take corn turn it into alcohol then turn it into jet.”
Cunningham first started pushing the idea of a new bulk storage area in 2002. In 2008, he traveled with James†Judkins, 412th Civil Engineering director,†to Ft. Belvoir, Va., to plead their case and the idea was approved.
“It should really improve the way fuels are done and environmentally it’s going to be much better,” said Cunningham.
The new bulk storage is not the only improvement to the fuel systems on base. The hydrant area on Wolfe Ave. was upgraded to house four off-load headers for main base.
“The new [off-load header system] is redundant to the new bulk storage, but it’s geographically separated,” said Cunningham, adding that if a problem ever arose with the new bulk storage system, the new off-loaders would serve as a back-up, preventing delays in the mission.
“It’s the safety of flight,” said Cunningham. “Our whole purpose is to put clean, dry fuel into the airplane. That’s what we’re here for.”