319th CES upgrades 20-year base hydrant fuels system infrastructure

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Raisa Christie
  • 319th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

The 319th Civil Engineer Squadron began a base hydrant fuels system replacement in July 2023, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota.

The hydrant fuel system was initially constructed in 1959, with minor repairs until 2003 when it was replaced with aluminum. The main purpose of the system is to store fuel and to fuel base aircraft. However, years of wear-and-tear on the aluminum valves created a need for an overall upgrade to steel valves estimated to cost $2.4 million.

The U.S. Air Force Petroleum Agency and U.S. Defense Logistics Agency gave the 319th CES the option to pay contractors for restoration, or the option to replace the system through in-house manpower.

Leadership from the 319th CES operations flight and airmen from the water and fuels maintenance shop decided to tackle the project with their own expertise for roughly half the price. 

“Rebuilding the liquid fuels infrastructure here at Grand Forks AFB upgrades many airmen, making them more knowledgeable of the job throughout the Air Force,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Louis Thiele, non-commissioned officer in charge for the 319th CES project.

While building up their workforce for this project, Thiele and Louis Brenner, a maintenance mechanic for the 319th CES, initially began in-house project preparation in the beginning of 2023.  

AFPET connected Thiele and Brenner with the U.S. DLA, who later funded the project with the stipulation that the whole system be replaced instead of repaired.

Additional repairs include replacing wirings, belts and hydraulically controlled components, which improve the cathodic protection components that ensure the ground does not erode underground pipes.

“They have new regulations that requires the replacement of all remaining valves because they’re constructed with wrong composite metals,” Thiele said. “Aluminum is brittle; it breaks in cooler temperatures.”  

Members from the 319th CES liquid fuels maintenance shop flew to a Cla-Val fuel valve factory in Cosa Mesa, California, to observe the new steel valves being molded. The squadron has since begun to replace 49 valves across the base, costing $675,000. Overall, the project has saved the Air Force about $1.7 million.