Original Paper

Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 29-36

First online:

Characterization of microbial contamination in United States Air Force aviation fuel tanks

  • Michelle E. RauchAffiliated withFuels Branch, Propulsion Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory
  • , Harold W. GraefAffiliated withDepartment of Systems and Engineering Management, Air Force Institute of Technology
  • , Sophie M. RozenzhakAffiliated withFuels Branch, Propulsion Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory
  • , Sharon E. JonesAffiliated withUES
  • , Charles A. BleckmannAffiliated withDepartment of Systems and Engineering Management, Air Force Institute of Technology Email author 
  • , Randell L. KrugerAffiliated withFuels Branch, Propulsion Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory
  • , Rajesh R. NaikAffiliated withMaterials and Manufacturing Directorate, Biotechnology Group, Air Force Research Laboratory
  • , Morley O. StoneAffiliated withMaterials and Manufacturing Directorate, Biotechnology Group, Air Force Research Laboratory

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Abstract

Bacteria and fungi, isolated from United States Air Force (USAF) aviation fuel samples, were identified by gas chromatograph fatty acid methyl ester (GC-FAME) profiling and 16S or 18S rRNA gene sequencing. Thirty-six samples from 11 geographically separated USAF bases were collected. At each base, an above-ground storage tank, a refueling truck, and an aircraft wing tank were sampled at the lowest sample point, or sump, to investigate microbial diversity and dispersion within the fuel distribution chain. Twelve genera, including four Bacillus species and two Staphylococcus species, were isolated and identified. Bacillus licheniformis, the most prevalent organism isolated, was found at seven of the 11 bases. Of the organisms identified, Bacillus sp., Micrococcus luteus, Sphinogmonas sp., Staphylococcus sp., and the fungus Aureobasidium pullulans have previously been isolated from aviation fuel samples. The bacteria Pantoea ananatis, Arthrobacter sp., Alcaligenes sp., Kocuria rhizophilia, Leucobacter komagatae, Dietza sp., and the fungus Discophaerina fagi have not been previously reported in USAF aviation fuel. Only at two bases were the same organisms isolated from all three sample points in the fuel supply distribution chain. Isolation of previously undocumented organisms suggests either, changes in aviation fuel microbial community in response to changes in aviation fuel composition, additives and biocide use, or simply, improvements in isolation and identification techniques.

Keywords

Aviation fuel Microbial contamination Fuel microorganisms JP-8 JP-4 Jet-A