Why Is Jet Fuel Cheaper Than Gasoline? Let us discuss the jet fuel price. ATF or jet fuel prices are revised on 1st of every month based on the average international rate for benchmark fuel and foreign exchange rate in the preceding month. Prices were unchanged at the last revision on February 1. Prior to that, rates were cut by a record 14.7 per cent (Rs 9,990 per kl) on January 1 and by 10.9 per cent (Rs 8,327.83 per kl) on December 1.
jet fuel price
Jet fuel price was hiked Friday by a steep 8.1 per cent to its costliest level this year as international oil prices rose, state-owned oil firms said. The price of Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) was hiked by Rs 4,734.15 per kilolitre, or 8.15 per cent, to Rs 62,795.12 per kl in the national capital, according to price notification issued by state-owned oil firms. This is the first increase in prices in four-months which has pushed rates to their highest level this year.
The two consecutive price reduction had brought ATF rates to their lowest levels in a year and had provided much-needed relief to cash-strapped airlines. But the latest round of price hike would put pressure on margins of airlines. ATF, however, continues to be cheaper than both petrol and diesel in most parts of the country and is less expensive than even non-PDS kerosene.
A litre of petrol, used in motorcycles and cars, costs Rs 71.81 in Delhi as compared to Rs 62,795.12 per kl or Rs 62.79 per litre price for ATF. A litre of diesel, which is mostly used as fuel in trucks and buses, comes for Rs 67.12. ATF costs less than the price charged for kerosene sold through non-PDS (public distribution system) outlets. Non-PDS kerosene in Delhi is priced at Rs 64.46 per litre.
ATF in Mumbai, home to one of the busiest airport in the country, costs Rs 62,748.70 per kl or Rs 62.74 per litre. A litre of petrol in the city costs Rs 77.44 and diesel is priced at Rs 70.31 per litre. It costs less than even non-PDS kerosene in the city which is sold at Rs 67.88 a litre. Rates vary from city to city depending on local taxes.
Continuing its upward march, petrol price Friday was raised by 8 paise a litre and diesel rate was hiked by 12 paise. Petrol now costs Rs 71.81 a litre in Delhi and diesel is priced at Rs 67.12.
Why Is Jet Fuel Cheaper Than Gasoline
Rates have been on the rise for the last two weeks and cumulatively prices have risen by Rs 1.48 per litre in case of petrol and Rs 1.31 a litre for diesel. Non-PDS kerosene price was Friday hiked by 5.4 per cent to Rs 64,460.83 per kl in Delhi.
Like ATF, state-owned fuel retailers revise rates of non-PDS kerosene on 1st of every month based on average international oil rate and rupee-US dollar exchange rate in the preceding month. Petrol and diesel prices are revised on a daily basis.
From small airplanes like the Cessna to large twin-engine jets like the Airbus A380, all combustion-powered airplanes require fuel to operate. Like combustion-powered automobiles, they burn fuel to create the power needed to achieve and maintain a safe flying speed. While there are several types of aviation fuel, though, most consist of kerosene. So, why do airplanes use kerosene rather than plain gasoline for fuel?
Lower Freezing Point
Kerosene has a lowering freezing point than gasoline, making it naturally protected against freezing in otherwise bone-chilling temperatures. Kerosene itself is actually a mixture of petroleum-based hydrocarbons and other compounds. Therefore, the precise freezing point of kerosene fuel varies. But regardless, it takes cooler temperatures for kerosene to freeze than it does for gasoline to freeze.
Higher Flash Point
In addition to a lower freezing point, kerosene has a higher flash point than gasoline. Flash point refers to the temperature at which a combustible chemical or substance ignites and turns to vapor. With its higher flash point, kerosene offers higher octane ratings to achieve greater power and efficiency when compared to its gasoline counterpart. In fact, this is the main reason kerosene fuel is used in airplanes. For decades, airplanes originally used gasoline. The need for higher-octane fuel, however, prompted aviation experts to experiment with alternative types of fuel, thus paving the way for kerosene. Today, kerosene is now the most common type of fuel used in airplanes.
Kerosene has a lower viscosity rating during flight operation than gasoline, meaning it’s more watery and not as thick or “gummy” as gasoline. This is important because highly viscous fuels can clog up internal channels in an airplane’s engine. But since kerosene has a lower freezing point than gasoline, it remains more watery and less viscous than gasoline during flights. Even at high altitudes with naturally cold temperatures, kerosene has minimal viscosity, allowing it to easily travel through the airplane’s engine and connected components.
Considering that large commercial airplanes like the 747 burn roughly 1 gallon of fuel per minute, it’s important for airlines to consider the cost of fuel. The good news is that kerosene is significantly cheaper than gasoline. In some cases, kerosene may cost less than half the price of gasoline. Along with its lower freezing point, higher flash point and lower viscosity, this is one more reason why kerosene has become the preferred type of fuel in the aviation industry.
Ease of Production
Jet-A, like all kerosene fraction products, is straightforward to produce: straight-run kerosene that has been run through a few sweetening (impurity removal) processes is mixed with mid-weight distillates from heavy cracking processes (catalytic crackers, hydrocrackers, cokers) and presumably processed further with hydrogen and clay to get rid of more impurities.
On the flip side, there are all of two TEL (tetra-ethyl lead, aka the “lead” in leaded gasoline) producers on this planet that I can find (Innospec in the UK and TDS Chem in China). Considering that the last few countries that use it in mogas are working on phasing it out, and very few road vehicles sold on the global market these days can even burn it to begin with due to being made to more stringent emissions specs, it’d be safe to say that the majority of TEL made on this planet is going into planes.
Atop that, avgas requires large quantities of high-octane blendstocks, but cannot use any oxygenates (they are prohibited by the avgas spec, aka ASTM D910, as GA fuel systems aren’t compatible with ’em, especially ethanol). These high-octane blendstocks are primarily alkylate and reformate, both of which require specialized refinery equipment to produce. Furthermore, reformate is an inefficient source of high-octane blendstock (reformate is very heavy in aromatics such as benzene and toluene, which are better off getting distilled out of the stream to be used as a valuable chemical feedstock instead), and alkylation, while an efficient way to produce high-octane blendstocks, requires an acid supply nearby (either sulfuric or hydrofluoric), limiting where alkylation units can go. Finally, both of these blendstocks are in demand for motor gasoline production as well, which means that most refineries that produce them are filling mogas demand first and avgas demand second.
Jet-A is relatively easy to handle — it’s a close cousin to the kerosene on hardware-store shelves. It has a relatively high flashpoint (meaning you need to make a fine mist of it mechanically or heat it aggressively to ignite it), and this low volatility also limits worker exposure to the relatively limited chemical hazards it poses. Furthermore, it can be shipped readily via most refined-products pipelines without posing unusual hazards or risking excessive cross-contamination by or to other products.
On the other hand, tetra-ethyl lead is highly toxic, and 100LL is toxic not just because of TEL, but because of volatile hydrocarbon toxicity. While isoparaffins seem to be less problematic than normal paraffins from this standpoint, volatile aromatics (Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylene, or BTEX for short) are well known as troublemakers in the human body.
Atop this double handling hazard (volatility of the fuel and toxicity of TEL and light aromatics), pipelining 100LL is a much harder task due to the TEL contaminated transmix (contaminated stuff from the boundaries between products in a multi-product pipeline) it produces. Normally, transmix is reprocessed by refiners or dedicated transmix reprocessing plants to produce gasoline and diesel (with most of the kerosene fractions in the transmix being lumped in with the diesel for simplicity’s sake), but the presence of TEL in transmix renders it unreprocessable as any more than 50mg/gal of lead in motor gasoline means it is contaminated and unsellable as per EPA regulations. Furthermore, shipping 100LL in a multiproduct pipeline risks contaminating other products with lead batch-wide due to dead legs and other such cross-contamination hazards, which means that in practice, 100LL is never shipped in multiproduct pipelines.
Instead, 100LL is typically railed or barged to terminals, and sometimes even trucked directly from the refinery as not all terminals have rail or barge access. This drives up shipping costs compared to every other fuel (save for ethanol and other fuel blendstocks that are surfactants).shareimprove this answer follow edited Nov 30 ’19 at 16:54answered May 15 ’17 at 4:09UnrecognizedFallingObject12.3k33 gold badges2929 silver badges100100 bronze badges
- 19All them 50¢ words makes you sound like you know what yer talkin’ about! 😀 +1 – FreeMan May 15 ’17 at 14:50
- Why can’t the TEL be separated back out of the transmix and the newly-de-TELed transmix used like regular transmix? – Sean Jul 26 ’19 at 21:33
- 1@Sean — it’s an added cost item in transmix reprocessing — TEL and its associated scavengers boil out into a heavy hydrocarbon fraction during distillation (presumably into the diesel fraction?), where it’s NFG whatsoever (the radical quenching action of TEL would likely have deleterious effects on diesel engine operation, although nobody seems to talk about TEL contamination of diesel fuel…) – UnrecognizedFallingObject Jul 27 ’19 at 4:55
- @UnrecognizedFallingObject: NFG? – Sean Jul 27 ’19 at 21:46
- 1@Sean No Freakin’ Good – UnrecognizedFallingObject Jul 27 ’19 at 21:52
There are a number of factors that go into it:
Economies of Scale
Jet-A is used in a much higher volume than 100LL. All the jet engine commercial aircraft each day burn through orders of magnitude more Jet-A than piston aircraft burn through 100LL. That means that there is a much higher production volume, and therefore a cost savings as a result.
Buying in volume
It is pretty rare for a jet to taxi up and take on 50 gallons of Jet-A. Even the smaller jets rarely take on less than a couple hundred gallons. If you went up to your local FBO and said that you wanted 500 gallons of 100LL, they would find a way to get a discount for you.
100LL is special
Leaded fuels are not manufactured anymore for any other purpose than 100LL. There is a push in the aviation industry to do away with the leaded fuels altogether, but this isn’t happening for a while. As a result, it takes a special process to add lead to the fuel, equipment not used for any other purpose. Jet-A on the other hand isn’t incredibly different from diesel #1 or kerosene, at least in the way it is processed.
Because airlines buy so much fuel, they have negotiated contracts directly with fuel suppliers. These contracts help bring the price down because of competition, and the supplier is running a steady supply of fuel for the airline.
I’m not sure why you would think that 100LL would be cheaper, it’s sold in low volume, it is expensive to make, and it is environmentally unfriendly and toxic.