Why Does Jet Fuel Cost Less Than Avgas Fuel?

If you are a pilot or an aviation enthusiast, you might have wondered why jet fuel is cheaper than aviation gasoline (Avgas), the gasoline used for piston-engine aircraft.

After all, jet fuel is more refined and has a higher energy density than Avgas, so it should be more expensive, right? Well, not exactly. There are several factors that affect the price of jet fuel and Avgas, and in this article, we will explore them in detail.

Supply and Demand

One of the main reasons why jet fuel is cheaper than avgas is because of supply and demand. Jet fuel is used by commercial airlines, military aircraft, and some general aviation aircraft, while Avgas is only used by piston-engine aircraft.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2019, the U.S. consumed about 1.7 billion barrels of jet fuel, compared to only 0.1 billion barrels of avgas. That means jet fuel has a much higher demand and a larger market than Avgas.

However, supply and demand also depend on the availability of the raw materials and the production capacity of the refineries. Jet fuel is made from kerosene, which is a middle distillate of crude oil, while Avgas is made from gasoline, which is a light distillate of crude oil. Jet fuel has a much higher supply and a lower import dependency than Avgas.

Moreover, jet fuel can be produced by most refineries around the world, while Avgas requires special additives and processes that are only available in a few refineries. There are approximately 100 refineries in the world that can produce avgas, and most of them are located in North America and Europe. Whereas there are approximately 600 refineries in the world that can produce jet fuel.

Furthermore, not all of these Avgas refineries produce Avgas on a regular basis. The number of refineries that produce avgas can vary depending on the demand for avgas and the availability of the raw materials needed to produce it. In the United States, there are approximately 11 refineries that produce avgas. That means Avgas has a lower production capacity and a higher transportation cost than jet fuel.

Quality and Specifications

Another reason why jet fuel is cheaper than Avgas is because of the quality and specifications of the fuels. Jet fuel is more refined and has a higher energy density than Avgas, but it also has a narrower range of specifications and a lower octane rating. Octane rating measures the ability of a fuel to resist knocking or detonation in an engine, which can damage the engine and reduce performance. Jet fuel has an octane rating of about 15 to 20, while avgas has an octane rating of 100 or higher.

Avgas is designed for high-performance piston-engine aircraft that operate at high altitudes and high speeds, where knocking can be a serious problem. Avgas also contains lead, which acts as an anti-knock agent and a lubricant for the valves and spark plugs. However, lead is also toxic and harmful to the environment, so it is regulated by environmental agencies and subject to taxes and fees. Jet fuel does not contain lead or any other additives that can increase its price.

Jet fuel is designed for turbine-engine aircraft that operate at high temperatures and pressures, where knocking is not an issue.

Jet fuel also has a lower freezing point and a higher flash point than avgas, which means it can withstand colder and hotter conditions without freezing or igniting.

Jet fuel also has less variation in its composition and quality than Avgas, which means it can be used by any jet engine without requiring adjustments or modifications.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, jet fuel is cheaper than avgas because of several factors that affect the supply and demand, the quality and specifications, and the production and transportation costs of the fuels.

Jet fuel has a higher demand and supply, a lower import dependency, a lower octane rating, a lower freezing point, a higher flash point, less additives, less variation, less regulation, less taxation, less transportation cost, and more production capacity than Avgas. These factors make jet fuel more affordable and accessible than Avgas for most aircraft operators.


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