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DST works to keep critical fuel supplies ready

Royal Australian Navy sailor, Seaman Aviation Technician Aircraft Jacob Williams of 725 Squadron conducts fuel sampling using the interfacing adaptor on an MH-60 R helicopter at HMAS Albatross (Source: Dept of Defence)

A team of Defence Science and Technology scientists have been recognised by peer bodies in recent times, acknowledging the important, enduring and ongoing contributions they are making to research into Defence’s strategically vital fuel reserves.

A team of Defence Science and Technology scientists have been recognised by peer bodies in recent times, acknowledging the important, enduring and ongoing contributions they are making to research into Defence’s strategically vital fuel reserves.

Defence scientists David Evans and Paul Rawson specialise in the chemistry of aviation and diesel fuels, respectively. Despite sometimes getting the tag of a being ‘just a testing lab’, Evans and Rawson lead critically important research programs on behalf of the Defence fuels community.

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The long-term focus has been on maintaining the quality of Defence fuels, and specifically fuel degradation and what that means for Defence operations.

A major focus at the moment is improving how Defence integrates fuel testing into its operations, and a priority over the last 18 months for Evans has been the design and assembling of deployable fuel quality control equipment.

Evans is DST’s Army and Navy Science Team Leader (STL) for fuels and lubricants.

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He explained it’s been a very busy couple of years with many opportunities in the fuels research area banging on the door. An injection of new lab equipment in recent times will drive DST fuels research that will bear fruit for Defence, the Five Eyes community and industry.

“Developing strong relationships in your international research community is invaluable. You look at some of the things we’ve done over the years, the programs we’ve led such as the work that modified the world’s commercial jet fuel standard. You get impact there, as a result of those links,” Evans said.

Rawson reached a milestone of 30 years at DST last year, and received the prestigious Five Eyes Air Force Interoperability Council (AFIC) Award, which recognised his more than two decades years as Australia’s fuel science subject matter expert within the AFIC Fuels Group.

Air Commodore Mark Green, Director General Air Capability Enablers and AFIC National Director, presented the award at the 2019 Defence Fuel Services Branch Symposium.

At the time he noted that Rawson’s dedication has considerably enhanced fuel interoperability among the Five Eyes nations and, in many cases, has had wider ramifications.

Rawson and Evans had a Eureka moment when the realised they had clearly identified for the first time the chemistry of tertiary oxidation that degrades fuel. This led to a long-term partnership with Monash University starting with a research project to characterise the fuel oxidation products.

The discovery helped solidify their standing in the fuels community and opened up many doors, according to Evans.

Key chemical markers in fuel were identified that are intimately linked to unsuitable fuel or give an indication of how much life is left.

DST works to keep critical fuel supplies ready
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