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Europe moves to ban lead in avgas

Moves to ban lead in aviation gasoline (avgas) are not just in the US – Europe is also on the brink of banning Tetraethyllead (TEL), the chemical which adds the lead in 100LL fuel.

Europe Airsports, which represents sports and recreational aviation in Europe, recently warned of the upcoming ban.

It reports that the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) wants to transfer Tetraethyllead (TEL) as a toxic substance to the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) register. ECHA lists TEL on its ‘List of substances of high concern’.

“Apparently, no decisions are officially published yet to place TEL on the REACH register,” said Europe Airsports.

“We know from reliable sources that all Member States voted for this process. It can be expected that the official regulation might be published in March 2022; the consequences have to be assessed and communicated afterwards. Avgas 100 LL itself is not banned.”

TEL is needed in avgas 100LL for two reasons, as Shell Aviation explains:

“Lead compounds from TEL form a protective layer on the valve seat and prevents the soft valve seats from eroding.

“The other more significant problem with unleaded fuels is octane rating. Higher octane fuels mean a higher compression ratio or supercharging ratio can be used, which then leads to a higher engine cycle efficiency.”

Read the full Shell Aviation explanation here.

Europe Airsports

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4 comments

  • riverrock says:

    Ah – the classic misunderstanding.
    Being on the REACH register doesn’t mean an item is banned. It means that use needs to be authorised.
    When there aren’t alternatives (and there currently aren’t for many aircraft engines) then authorisation will be given.

    This was last looked at a few years ago:
    https://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/13640/9th_recom_respdoc_tetraethyllead_en.pdf/1548f1c6-afc1-408e-d4fb-c51f2000cdd7
    And rejected:
    “Based on this information from registrations ECHA concluded that the use of the aviation fuel (e.g. by professionals or consumers) is outside the scope of authorisation since the TEL content is below
    the specific concentration limit of 0.1 % by weight”

  • Nigel hitchman says:

    This would be a disaster for many operators of higher powered piston engines aircraft and of course most of the warbirds. No more Spitfires flying!
    Surely they can’t be allowed to ban TEL until a safe alternative is found and certified, particularly for the higher compression ratio engines that need the higher octane as well as an additive to do the same job as the lead does on the valves. It seems that additives might be available as used in vintage cars, but these need extensive testing and certification.
    I also wonder how I might know if I have hardened valve seats in my engine, an O-320 built in the late 90s. Which is approved for unleaded and run on it some of the time.
    The Government also needs to encourage the us of unleaded fuels in aircraft that can use it now, they should reduce the tax on UL91, so that it is considerably cheaper than 100LL.
    Interesting to see that in shell’s explanation they appear to be ignorant of 91UL in Europe for the last 15 years plus and UL96 in Sweden for 30 years!

  • Geoffery Ellis says:

    I do not want to pay for services from Flyer. I used to receive flyer magazine. I no longer receive that. I do not want any material that will incur a payment from me.
    Regards GEllis

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