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Piston Operators - Shell Announces Unleaded Avgas Development

Shell Aviation, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell plc, made clear that it is in the race to find an unleaded replacement for aviation gasoline (avgas), announcing that it has developed a 100 octane unleaded formulation that has been both bench- and flight-tested, and appears to work as a "performance drop-in" replacement. Shell now plans to submit their formulation for FAA and EASA testing and approval.

"Shell Aviation's announcement is welcome news, and we look forward to learning more as their product moves through the testing and approval process," said Paul Schaaf, HAI's vice president of operations. "The aviation industry has been looking for a way to remove tetraethyl lead from avgas for nearly 20 years. This potential alternative from Shell, as well as those from Swift Fuels and GAMI appear to be moving us closer to that goal."

Shell says their unleaded avgas is the result of more than 10 years’ research and development. They worked with Lycoming to test the fuel in Lycoming’s highest octane-demand engine, and with Piper Aircraft to test-fly the fuel in an experimental Piper Saratoga twin fixed-wing aircraft. (It has not yet been tested in a helicopter.)

Lycoming Sr. Vice President and General Manager Michael Kraft is quoted as saying, “We can confirm that it's remarkably close to Avgas 100LL from a performance perspective. This initiative is a major step in the right direction for general aviation.”

Shell says that in addition to working with regulators, it plans to work with ASTM International, which writes petroleum standards for fuels (including avgas) and other engine and airframe manufacturers.

The FAA hopes to have an unleaded replacement for 100LL avgas by 2018, but Shell Aviation has indicated they may be ready sooner - perhaps as soon as two to three years - if they can get the necessary approvals.

Neither Shell nor any of the other unleaded avgas developers have indicated what their products might cost per gallon.

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