Extraordinary Fuel Uses
When it comes to fuels, oils and lubricants, we can all often be guilty of taking them for granted with regards to the uses we put them to. Whether it’s red diesel for farm vehicles, bulk diesel for a transport fleet or industrial heating oil for a factory or school.
But there are far more things we put fuels to which are sometimes, quite literally out of this space!
How is the Use of Fuel Extraordinary?
When you utter the word ‘fuel’, most people think of petrol or diesel and the worryingly empty tank in their vehicle. But, in actual fact, fuels vary widely across a plethora of applications and some of them, believe it or not, are quite interesting.
This article aims to provide you with a fresh influx of information that we really don’t think you already know. So are you ready to be amazed by fuel…
Give me some space
The night sky is something I’ve been frequently lost in and its sheer size and depth leave me in complete awe. For thousands of years, man and woman of generations before us have more than likely pondered its existence and marvelled at its beauty.
In 1961, instead of just looking up into the night sky to see the stars, humans sent their first guinea pig, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, into outer space using a rocket. And since then we’ve sent over 300 more – one of which was Helen Sharman – the first Briton in space!
In order to propel a rocket into space, you need fuel.. and lots of it too! One such rocket that has achieved the feat of entering Earth’s orbit is the Space Shuttle. The combined weight of the Space Shuttle (which was a rocket-launched space aircraft) was just under 2 million kilogrammes.
That was including the shuttle, its external tank, 2 rocket boosters and the fuel. The rocket fuel used to send this enormous spacecraft into outer space weighed nearly 20 times more than the shuttle itself! The fuel used to propel this marvel into space was called Ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP).
Another extraordinary fuel used in space missions is called RP-1 and is a highly refined kerosene fuel. You may see another fuel mentioned named RP-2 which is a low-sulphur version but, due to the expense and lack of demand for RP-2 rocket fuel, RP-1 became the number 1 choice for space missions.
Did you know they tried diesel fuel in rockets, but it never managed to get one into Earth’s orbit!
Deep-sea exploration is almost on par with space exploration in terms of what we’ve already discovered. Okay, so space is way more vast, but what we know of the oceans is very little compared to the land we walk on. The deepest part of the ocean is the Mariana Trench which is nearly 7 miles deep.
The average depth of the ocean is around 2.7 miles. Navigating this sort of territory which, beyond 700 feet, becomes pitch black is an exceptionally difficult feat! Not only is the lack of visibility extreme, but many other factors make deep-sea exploration a grandiose task.
To make deep-sea navigation possible, there are a select few vehicles perfectly designed to cope with the stresses of such a coup!
For the purpose of TYDK, we’ll be taking a look at submarines and the types of fuel they use. For a quick and interesting read, I would advise you to check out the Bathysphere which required no fuel.
Human deep-sea divers find many difficulties when trying to dive to incredible depths and so vehicles in which they can travel have been designed over the years to help us dive deeper. Although some super-humans have been known to reach depths of 417ft unaided and incredibly, with special suits, depths of 2,000 ft.
But, that just isn’t deep enough for explorers, scientists and zoologists so they use submarines to achieve unreachable depths by humans. Submarines allow us to get deeper for longer and in most cases remain safe. The fuel to aid these deep-sea observations has varied over the years between petrol, kerosene and diesel.
Diesel was later taken on as the best fuel for this extraordinary requirement due to reduced flammability. Nowadays, submarines use diesel-electric motors for efficiency and emissions purposes. One extra-special submarine was the Dolphin AGSS-555 because It is the world’s deepest diving submarine.
It recorded depths of over 3,000 ft which would have crushed other subs. It was powered by two 425hp General Motors/Detroit Diesel V71 two-stroke, supercharged diesel 12-cylinder engines, two 126-cell main storage batteries and two 825hp electric propulsion motors and made over 1500 dives before being retired.
The fast and fuel-ious
The Bugatti Veyron is probably considered one of the fastest cars on earth, but in actual fact, it’s pretty slow compared with some of the competition out there. If you’ve started to picture a Formula One car then sorry, but this is pretty slow as well.
We say this because in 1939 British racing driver John Cobb recorded 367.91 mph over 1 mile in a Railton Special. But that was 1939, we’re now in 2015! A Bugatti Veyron reaches 204.4 mph over 1 mile. A Formula One car has a top speed of roughly 240 mph!
Unlike petrol, which is what the Bugatti Veyron is fuelled by, recent record-breaking vehicles use a variety of rocket fuels to help them achieve breakneck speeds. One extraordinary car which has done such a thing recently is the Thrust SSC.
In 1997, British RAF pilot Andy Green reached 763.065 mph over 1 mile setting a new world record for land speed in the Thrust SCC. The fuel used to catapult Thrust SCC to this speed was jet fuel (kerosene) also known as Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) which powered 2 afterburning Rolls-Royce Spey jet engines.
Did you know at full power, Thrust SSC burned 18 litres of jet fuel per second?
Fuels for life
When life is at risk, we try to act as quickly as possible to make sure that life is safe. The fuels used in day to day life-saving events can be diesel fuel and petrol in fire engines, police cars and ambulances.
Lifeboats will use marine diesel fuel for propulsion and we even have fuels for backup diesel generators which spring into action should the power fail in a hospital. Recently, trapped miners in Chile were rescued by borehole drilling machines which are powered by red diesel.
One of the largest scale rescue operations of recent times was Operation Rahat. A rescue mission carried out by the Indian Air Force in 2013 to help evacuate 19,000 civilians from the North Indian floods.
After heavy rain caused flash floods on 16th June 2013, around 19,600 civilians, mostly stranded in valleys, were airlifted by helicopters to safety.
A total of 43 aircraft were used with 23 of these being Russian Mi 17 twin-turbine transport helicopters. These helicopter engines are fuelled by jet fuel.
This excerpt is taken from Wikipedia – Unfortunately, during the rescue mission, on 25 June 2013, a Mi-17 V5 of the Indian Air Force crashed while undertaking a rescue mission in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India. IAF chief NAK Browne ruled out the possibility of any of the 20 men on board surviving.
Blowing hot or cold
Unlike people, who sometimes blow hot and cold, engines work well in cold conditions or hot conditions but never really both. By now, you’ve probably started to grasp that engines come in a wide variety and are built for very specific purposes. These individual purposes require special fuels which facilitate the engine’s optimum performance.
Fuel for high heat environments
Due to the heat intensity of supersonic aircraft, jet fuel needs to be modified to be able to cope with these conditions. One such application was in the SR-71 Blackbird. When an aircraft is cruising at Mach-3 (A Mach number within the supersonic zone) the heat generated through air compression is so high that other fuels would simply ignite.
For this reason, the external skin is made of titanium alloy rather than aluminium which would simply melt! A fuel named JP-7 was designed to withstand high heat and allow the aircraft to reach high speeds safely. JP-7 jet fuel had high thermal stability due to its lack of volatile ingredients.
To aid the ignition of JP-7 fuel, an ingredient called Triethylborane was used because it burns at a very high temperature.
Did you know, it was documented that a lit match could be dropped into JP-7 fuel and still not ignite it.
Fuel for cold temperatures
In some of the coldest conditions, where many fuels freeze up, a fuel named Jet B is used to fuel aircraft based in the world’s coldest regions of operation.
It has a low freezing point which prevents it from freezing in cold weather but, it is dangerous to handle and is rarely used in military aircraft and civilian turbine-engined aviation only in extremely cold climates. It is made up of 30% kerosene and 70% gasoline.
Ready to put our fuels to your own extraordinary uses?
No matter which fuels or lubricants you or your business require, our knowledgeable team can help ensure you get them delivered. Whether you have questions or you’re looking for a quote, give our fuel experts a call today on 0330 678 0880 to learn more.