ASTM to Establish Aviation Fuel-Labeling Scheme

The following article was adapted from F+L Magazine online (

When you put gas in your car, there can be problems if you choose the wrong product. 

In the field of aviation, the consequences of such a mistake are far more severe. To help avoid such occurrences, the dyes and markings task force at ASTM International, part of the subcommittee on spark and compression ignition aviation engine fuels (D02.J0.02), is developing a new fuel-labeling scheme for the aviation industry.

Even though stringent controls are in place to reduce aircraft fuel contamination or misfueling, human error does occur. In addition, refueling often happens in difficult conditions and situations such as inclement weather or under time pressure. 

Dyes and markings help identify the correct fuel, both for grade purposes and for any additional fees and taxes. Their use means that distinctive colors or traces are added to petroleum products that allow users and enforcement officers to distinguish between grades and ensure adherence to relevant specifications. The dyes and markings also help prevent fuel theft.

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Aviation fuels are commonly known by their name and color, for example, “Avgas Grade 100LL” (blue). The visual representation of these fuels also includes a placard system on storage tanks to designate fuel types and grades. 

Speaking at the December 2018 meeting of ASTM International’s committee on petroleum products, liquid fuels, and lubricants (D02) in Atlanta, Georgia, Alisdair Clark reviewed some of the developments in the aviation fuels market and their implications for fuel labeling. Clark is Air BP’s aviation fuels research and development manager and chairman of ASTM’s dyes and markings task force, where he is supported by Thomas Albuzat of Swift Fuels, a U.S.-based unleaded Avgas supplier. The prospect of new unleaded Avgas grades and a likely leaded–unleaded transition market is set to make aviation fuel delivery more complex.

Clark highlighted the need for an updated labeling scheme that helps ensure the correct fuel is supplied to the correct aircraft. He also cited the need for that scheme to be simple to learn and use by a broad range of the population regardless of language, cultural barriers, or visual impairments such as color blindness. He also stressed that the scheme should be suitable for use in fluctuating weather conditions and that it should allow for future expansion in the types of fuels. The fuel-labeling scheme proposed by ASTM will apply to aircraft fuel tanks, storage facilities, distribution facilities, and refueling nozzles.

Development will occur in two phases. 

The first phase is a rationalization process whereby the group will eliminate outmoded symbols and reclaim Avgas colors for future industry use.

That process is underway, says Clark. The task force has reclaimed colors from redundant grades including ASTM D910 Grade 80 (red), ASTM D6227 Grade UL82 (purple), and ASTM D6227 Grade UL87 (yellow). A ballot for the removal of leaded Grade 91/98, dyed brown from ASTM D910, was launched in the first quarter of 2019.

The goal of the second phase is the development of “new decal/placard designs for global use to help prevent misfueling in combination with the allocation of grade dyes/colors.” Designs could include words, shapes, and colors.

The creation and roll-out of a placard system that is accepted around the globe, achieves maximum fuel security, and future-proofs aviation fuel expansion, however, is not easy. The task force says the new design will follow a “scientific approach to assess human understanding” based on decal recognition and will likely use a computerized formal assessment tool to aid selection. Research participants will include airfield staff, owner–operators, and regulating agencies. Participants  will be shown labeling prototypes in different environmental conditions. 

To achieve the best possible outcome for the aviation industry, the task force will conduct research and take a variety of factors into account. Broad industry engagement is critical to the success
of the project, says Clark, noting that the Aviation Coordinating Research Council is already aware and supportive of this work.

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