Shell fuel truck

As aviation looks to chart a course towards net-zero, every opportunity to cut CO2 emissions must be explored. While the majority of emissions occur in the air, avoiding emissions in ground operations provides an opportunity to cut greenhouse gases.

One such opportunity is in the operation of refuelling vehicles. Traditionally, refuelling trucks have relied on their diesel engines to provide the power to pump fuel into aircraft. This means engines must be left running during fuelling, producing emissions for up to 60 minutes.

Shell Aviation has worked with partners in the aviation industry to increase the efficiency of refuelling over the past 100 years, pioneering hydrant systems and introducing new refuelling trucks to deals with the increasing fuel demands of each generation of aircraft.

In recent years, attention has been focused on reducing emissions during refuelling and in 2018, Shell Aviation piloted the first electric pump jet refuelling vehicle at its Stuttgart Airport facility in Germany.

In a conventional refueller, most diesel fuel is consumed during the process of pumping the jet fuel: this new 20,000-litre refueller features a fully electric fuelling system and pressure control, enabling a significant reduction in diesel consumption when compared to conventional refuellers. The new refueller uses its diesel engine solely for moving around the apron, switching it off while refuelling takes place. The electric system drives the refuelling pump, avoiding CO2 emissions at the point of use, as well as helping to reduce noise and particulate emissions on the apron. The vehicle was developed by Esterer, a leading manufacturer of aircraft refuellers, in close collaboration with Shell Aviation.

In the Stuttgart trial, the refueller delivered a reduction in diesel consumption of 2,200 litres and associated emissions during the course of the pilot, compared to a conventional refuelling vehicle.1

Following the success of the Stuttgart pilot, Shell has started to roll out electric pump jet refuelling vehicles across its network. The world’s first semi-trailer hybrid refueller was introduced at Lille Airport in France in June 2021 with a further vehicle scheduled to go into service at Zurich in Switzerland. Testing of electric pump refuelling vehicles is also planned for China and Malaysia. When combined with GTL diesel, this new generation of trucks also help improve local air quality and reduced particulates.

The introduction of these vehicles is already helping to avoid emissions at airports around the world, supporting the aviation industry as it takes another step on its journey to net-zero emissions.

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