Comptroller blasts failure to monitor jet fuel

Report states Energy Ministry, IAA failure to properly monitor production of jet fuel caused major threat to aviation safety.

Arkia airplane 370 (photo credit: reuters)
Arkia airplane 370
(photo credit: reuters)
The government authorities responsible for monitoring the production and maintenance of jet fuel have failed to do so properly in recent years, thereby causing a major threat to aviation safety, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said in his report on Wednesday.
A section of the report looked at the steps taken to ensure the quality and stability of aircraft jet fuel supplied at Ben-Gurion Airport. It examined the relevant activities of five government and independent bodies – the Energy and Water Ministry’s Fuel Administration, the Israel Airports Authority, the Transportation Ministry, the Civil Aviation Authority and the company Energy and Petroleum Infrastructures Ltd.
Overall, the state comptroller found a lack of coordination that has led to a lag in proper monitoring of jet fuel production, storage and supply.
Following a 1988 reform in the fuel sector, the number of private companies engaged in producing, importing, storing and transporting jet fuel grew.
From July 2011 through November 2012, the State Comptroller’s Office examined, in intermittent phases, the activities of the companies to ensure the quality of jet fuel and to implement the recommendations of various committees and teams that had been established following incidents of jet fuel contamination.
In 1997, the government directed the energy minister to submit a bill regulating the fuel and energy sector to ensure fuel supply reliability, availability, continuity, quality and efficiency. The goal was also to create competitive conditions and decreased supervision on the fuel sector from the Energy Ministry.
Only in March 2012, after 15 years had passed and during the state comptroller’s audit, did the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approve the bill for the fuel sector.
In July 2012 it passed its first reading in the Knesset plenary.
The bill will be discussed for approval at the next Knesset session, the Energy and Water Ministry said.
An Israeli standard for jet fuel only became official and binding in October 2010, and the regulation does not require checking for certain substances that are likely to harm quality. This inadequacy became particularly apparent during filtration tests that occurred in May 2011 after contaminated fuel was discovered at Ben-Gurion Airport – revealing the harmful presence of substances such as carbonized material, metals, sand and a rust-like substance – the report said.
Beginning in 2000, and including the incident in May 2011, there were several events in which the jet fuel supply was contaminated.
Following most of these events investigative committees emerged to identify deficiencies and make recommendations, the state comptroller explained.
Despite the fact that many of the same recommendations were made in multiple committees, the brunt of the problems still had not been corrected by the end of the state comptroller audit process.
“The treatment of the jet fuel sector requires the establishment of a central body that will direct regulation and integration of security operations and will have the appropriate authority and tools for monitoring, enforcing and coordinating between entities operating within it,” the report concluded.
The state comptroller noted that the Energy and Water Ministry has failed to fulfill its duty to specifically outline policies to ensure a steady supply of jet fuel with the required quality and monitoring procedures.
All of the relevant bodies must come together and “act decisively and without delay to ensure that the recommendations of the inquiry committees will be implemented and to correct the deficiencies that the state comptroller raised in this report,” the audit stressed.
The report specifically pinpointed the lack of coordination among the relevant authorities responsible for fuel monitoring, an issue that places all passengers at risk.
“These are safety concerns of the first order, and therefore it is necessary to address full attention in order to prevent a flight safety disaster and serious damage to the airport and its property, Israel’s economy and its image,” the report said.
In response to the audit, the Energy and Water Ministry said that over the years, all events regarding fuel that have been reported to the ministry have always been treated in a professional, effective and comprehensive manner. It is the responsibility of the ministry to oversee fuel quality standards as well as procedures for maintenance and operation of transportation systems, the ministry said.
A portion of the review committee’s conclusions following the May 2011 incident involved making maintenance standards binding, doing research on the effect of jet fuel additives and further investigation into the current testing mechanisms. All of this is now being done, the ministry asserted.
In addition, the state comptroller makes clear the importance of continuing to promote the bill for regulating the fuel industry.