Cleanup to Take Weeks / State Considering Using Dirty, but Filtered Jet Fuel

El Al and Paz Oil have yet to complete analysis of a filtering system test, but preliminary results seem to show the unidentified oily substance can be filtered out successfully.

Four days after all flights leaving Israel were grounded - based on fears of contaminated jet fuel at the airports - Israeli aviation authorities are considering allowing the use of the suspect fuel, after it is filtered.

It will likely take weeks to drain the jet fuel infrastructure and storage facilities at the airport and clean them properly, officials said after a meeting yesterday between National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau and various bodies involved. Representatives from the IDF, Paz Oil, the Israel Airports Authority, Oil Refineries and various government ministries were present at the meeting.

Jet-fuel, el al, airplane
Ofer Vaknin

The use of the filtered contaminated fuel is meant to avoid costing airlines extra money by forcing them to refuel elsewhere, or allowing them only enough from the country's emergency reserves to get them to Jordan or Cypress if need be. That system would have also disrupted schedules and caused long delays.

The filtered fuel is the same as what covered the existing filters in the fuel supply system with a thick, black oily and unidentified residue, clogging them. Fears that this material would not be completely stopped by the filters and cause engine problems is what lead to the halt of all flights last Thursday.

El Al and Paz Oil, which supplies the fuel and operates the fuel supply system at the airport, tested the filtering system Saturday night. They ran the contaminated fuel through the filters and into a plane's engines. The results have yet to be analyzed completely, but preliminary results seem to show the unidentified oily substance was filtered out successfully.

Waiting to clean out the entire fuel supply and storage system would take weeks. The test's success means flight operators may only have to frequently replace the filters, which would become clogged quite often.

The recommendation to use the filtered fuel is still waiting for the final results of the tests to show the chemicals involved really do not pass through the filters. Paz is examining importing filters to meet the pace of replacing them.

For now, airport authorities have told foreign airlines the preset system will continue at least until Wednesday.