Alaska jet fuel demand sets records

Posted: Thursday, November 07, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The West Coast dockworker lockout has become a temporary bonanza for air cargo carriers, fuel companies, Alaska Railroad Corp. and the state's two largest airports.

Among the signs: Jet fuel at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport has flowed at record levels. Flow reached a daily peak of 3.3 million gallons Oct. 23, about 400,000 gallons more than the previously pumped daily record, according to Bert Mattingly, administration manager for Aircraft Service International Group.

The company, formerly known as Signature Flight Support, is the contractor that operates Anchorage Fueling and Service Co., a consortium of 21 airlines formed in 1981 to provide fueling services at the airport.

The company pumped more than 715 million gallons of jet fuel in 2001 at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, leading the nation in the amount of fuel pumped into cargo planes, the company said.

On average, Signature pumps about 2 million gallons of jet fuel daily. Alaska Airlines is the largest fuel user for passenger service; Korean Air, Federal Express and United Parcel Service use the most fuel for cargo planes.

Jets take on anywhere from 6,000 to 44,000 gallons of fuel, depending on their size and destination. Most overseas cargo flights require more than 30,000 gallons per airplane, taking about 90 minutes to top off.

Jet A fuel fetches about $1.10 a gallon, Mattingly said. The actual cost is determined by each participating airline in the consortium, which negotiates prices individually with suppliers.

The company usually fuels about 4,200 jet airplanes in Anchorage monthly. In the summer, the numbers go up to more than 4,900.

Mattingly said about 5,000 airplanes will have been fueled in Anchorage in October.

Mattingly said the company is projecting 72 million gallons of fuel pumped for the month of October, a monthly record by about 15 percent.

Last October, the company pumped less than 60 million gallons of fuel, Mattingly said.

''We've been stressing the suppliers,'' Mattingly told the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc.'s North Pole refinery provides more than half of the jet fuel, which is shipped by rail to Anchorage. Tesoro Alaska Co. provides about 40 percent of the fuel for the airport via its Nikiski pipeline.

The remainder comes from other producers in and outside Alaska and is shipped here in tankers and barges.

Jeff Cook, vice president of external affairs for Williams, said his company produces about 1.4 million gallons of jet fuel daily for Anchorage. Another 210,000 gallons or so is produced for Fairbanks each day, he said.

Cook said Williams has bumped production at its North Pole plant to just over 2 million gallons a day.

''We're maxed out,'' said Cook. ''We're struggling with that much more demand, especially when we weren't expecting it.''

Still, Cook said, more fuel is more money for the company.

The port shutdown ended Oct. 9 after a federal judge ordered 29 ports reopened and an 80-day cooling off period at the request of President Bush.

The shutdown coupled with the start of the Christmas shipping season will create record revenue at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport , said Mort Plumb, airport director.

Dave Carlstrom, Fairbanks International Airport's director of marketing, said about 20 cargo planes have been diverted from Anchorage to Fairbanks for refueling.

''There has been an excess demand and a limited supply (of fuel),'' Carlstrom said. ''It's been kind of an economic boomlet for us.''

Pat Flynn, Alaska Railroad spokesman, said the increased fuel hauling from North Pole to Anchorage will boost revenues for the state-owned railroad.



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