Thursday 2 February 2017

PLUTO extended

CEPS Central European Pipeline System is 5000km of pipework run by NATO snaking across France and NW Europe and serviced by 13 supply points. 13 million tons of jet-fuel every year. That's a lot of 30 ton road-tankers that are not causing gridlock in Belgium and Nederland, the two most densely trafficked countries in Europe. 10% of it is used by the military in peacetime but Zaventam, Schiphol and Frankfurt are among the major civilian hubs that are tapped in. During the 1999 Kosovo bombing campaign, that proportion was briefly reversed as thousands of tons of fuel was used to ship munitions to the Balkans. The marginal cost of the bombing campaign has been estimated at $7.5 billion.

Historically Operation Pluto was the origin of this sort of logistical triumph. Hasrd as it may be to imagine shipping millions of tons of fuel across Europe in 30 ton loads, how much more difficult would it be to bring similar quantities reliably across the English channel after D-Day in June 1944. D-day, after all, had to be postponed by one day due to weather. The Pipe Line Under The Ocean PLUTO consisted of a giant roll [R] of 10cm steel pipe being unreeled from the Isle of Wight to Normandie. As the front advanced the pipeline was extended: no returning empty tanker-trucks getting in the way of tank transporters going forward.

Now here's a little known problem that I heard explained and solved on a documentary which I saw on the telly while staying wit Pat the Salt ten days ago: water! Pure jet fuel is quite toxic to life. Lots of carbs but no amino acids or vitamins and most importantly no water. But water is everywhere it doesn't mix with hydrocarbons. If any water does get into the vast tanks of NATO fuel stored at Zaventam or Schipol, then the missing link is supplied and microbes will settle in at the interface between water and oil and make a living there. A little clot of bacteria is about as useful in a jet's fuel lines as a clot of vascular endothelium fallen off from inside the leg of a passenger on the jet. In the latter, deep vein thrombosis [prev] may travel to the brain and cause a stroke. If the jet engines run out of fuel over the Atlantic, things aren't good either. Airplanes are unique in modes of travel that you have to keep going.

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