Fuel Logistics Pain in Afghanistan
It is said that the ability of US forces to operate in Afghanistan is based on logistics. I suggest the US military planners read again George Thorpe’s Pure Logistics, bible of military logistics profession. He said back in 1917 that “every strategical and every tactical problem should be solved logistically to determine what measures logistical resources will afford.” It seemed that the US military planners have been thinking otherwise.
In January 2009 issue of Fuel Lines the new director (as of 16 Nov 2008) of DLA Navy vise admiral Alan S. Thompson said that “support for our forces in Afghanistan is the most difficult logistics assignment we have faced since World War II”. (p.36). The problem is that the number of US forces have been increased (and is going to be increased further) without having a proper logistics backing.
Let me recap in this post the logistics pain of delivering fuel to military forces in Afghanistan.
A very large portion of Operation Enduring Freedom’s mission is supported by Bagram Air Base in northern Afghanistan and Kandahar Air Base in the southern area. Where does the fuel come from? Well, Afghanistan does not have any refineries; and hence all petroleum products are imported.
There are several articles an fuel delivery to Afghanistan but an article by Capt John Faust back in Spring 2007 issue of Army’s Quartermaster Journal gives a good background. I will make use part of it below.
There are three major steps of getting fuel into Afghanistan and delivering it to the FOBs. First, the Joint Petroleum Office sets the bulk petroleum storage requirements for Afghanistan. Second, DESC establishes the fuel contracts and brings fuel into Afghanistan. Finally, the hubs receive the fuel and distribute it to the FOBs. The Afghan theater provides a myriad of logistics challenges to U.S./Coalition forces. There are several challenges of course: landmines, truck drivers, distance traveled, limited road networks, mountainous terrain with inadequate or nonexistent road networks, harsh weather in the winter months, along with insurgent activity, and what else you can think of.
The fuel needs of American forces in Afghanistan are met in three ways.
(a) Refined oil products are shipped over 1600 km by rail and truck from a Turkmen refinery and by barge and railcar from Azerbaijan to American facilities in Afghanistan. The fuel takes up to 10 days to reach the Afghanistan border. After reaching the Afghanistan border, the TS1 is uploaded into “jingle” trucks, and then it can take another 2-4 days to reach one of the fuel hubs. The travel time to the FOBs range from 1-12 days.
(b) Fuel is trucked from four refineries in Pakistan passing through the Khyber and Salang Passes and is delivered in a week time. On any given day, there were more than 300 trucks, carrying approximately three million gallons of fuel (71429 barrels), en route to military locations downrange.
Fuel supplies in Pakistan is already having problems. As long as no reliable and secure road transport routes are found from neighboring countries, fuel supplies to Afghanistan must be delivered by air. This means that fuel costs will skyrocket. In January 2009 issue of Fuel Line (quarterly journal of DESC), Lynda Brown of Bulk Petroleum CBU reports that the Defense Energy Support Center recently added two forward operating bases (Sharana and Shank) in Afghanistan to the list of destinations it supports through fuel transportation contracts, previously administered by the Army Joint Logistics Command. In addition to transportation service contracts in the region, the CBU has administered Free-on-Board Destination supply contracts since July 2007, providing aviation, diesel, and gasoline fuels to Afghanistan from locations in Pakistan. Prior to 2007, supply contracts supporting Afghanistan paid the contractors for the fuel at the origin of the delivery chain. But, since with Free-on-Board (FOB) Destination contracts, the government doesn’t take ownership of the fuel until it is delivered, FOB Destination contractors must manage the risks of in-transit losses. This risk management position has facilitated greater efficiency in contract management.
(c) Before the US base closed an agreement with Uzbekistan provided for 100,000 gallons of jet fuel per day for use in Operation Enduring Freedom
DESC‑Middle East has contracts with three refineries in Pakistan and one with Red Star, who contracts with refineries in Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. The refineries provide JP8 and TS1 (Russian grade jet fuel) and ground fuels such as MOGAS, DF1 and DF2 winter grade and summer grade diesel fuels.
Pakistani refineries produce JP8 and Turkmenistan and Azeri refineries produce TS1. JP8 is injected with additives at the Pakistan refineries and TS1 receives additives at Bagram or Kandahar, the fuel hubs in Afghanistan where all bulk petroleum is delivered from the refineries.
Those two hubs provide bulk petroleum support to roughly 70 forward operating bases (FOBs) throughout Afghanistan.
Fuel Line July 2007 issue had mentioned that Red Star Fuel Services Incorporation, better known as Red Star Enterprises, (a private company located in Gibraltar and operating out of London), in conjunction with DESC and the 43rd Joint Logistics Command, will build a permanent fuel storage facility outside of Bagram Air Base. “When completed, the Red Star fuel facility will have more than 3-million gallons of storage capacity. This facility will be connected to Bagram AB by pipeline. The storage facility, in conjunction with the pipeline connection, will drastically reduce the fuel truck footprint at Bagram, and decrease force protection concerns.”
Red Star/JLC pipeline became fully operational in March 2008 and has a major impact on fuel operations and support within Afghanistan. The Red Star Fuel Facility delivers unadditized TS1 jet fuel via pipeline to Bagram Air Field every day. On average, Bagram receives 250,000 gallons per day via the pipeline, although Bagram has received as much as 300,000 gallons in one day through the pipeline. One of the most important aspects of this new method of delivery is that it has allowed the base to reduce the amount of trucks that enter the base each day. Approximately 40 fuel trucks per day no longer have to wait in line outside the entry control point to be swept by security and force protection teams. By reducing the congestion at the Entry Control Point, trucks carrying additional classes of supply are able to access the base quickly, thereby improving Bagram’s ability to receive and process material for its various customers. (source; DESC FActbook 2008)
At Bagram Air Base a new TS1 storage and issue site with a capacity of 420,000 gallon was created. Now, Bagram’s fuel military construction project will increase total storage capacity there by 2.6 million gallons (62,000 barrels). Note that Red Star Fuel Services Inc (sometimes refereed as Red Star Enterprise) has a reserve storage facility adjacent to Bagram base. Well, this reserve storage facility is owned and operated by Red Star. It is now in operation and has a capacity of three million gallons (7142 barrels). In addition, Red Star constructed a six-inch pipeline between their storage facility and the base which reduced the fuel truck footprint at Bagram Air Base, and thus decreased force protection concerns.
Now, let me open a big bracket here. As is usually the case for all DoD contractors, Red Star Enterprise is making good money of course. The company entered into a contract with DESC in 2005 for a regular delivery of jet fuel to Bagram. In August 2008 the company was awarded a maximum $308,257,762 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for jet fuel. And in December 2008 the company’s name was in Department of Army Legal Office for paid but not delivered fuel. (a summary of the story)
According to the DLA facts as of March 2006 “more than 2.2 billion gallons of fuel,” which makes 52 million barrels, was supplied to Afghanistan. Since then cumulative fuel supplies are not updated (on the DLA website).
The first issue of Fuel Line in 2006 (page 6) gives a daily consumption rate of over 270 000 gallons (6,400 barrels per day) of oil across Afghanistan by the US military.
In 2007 over 139 million gallons of product were provided in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), according to DESC FACTBOOK2007 (published in 2008). This makes 9,067 barrels per day. JP8 and ground fuels are provided from Pakistan refineries and delivered to Bagram airbase and to Kandahar Air Base (KAB) until NATO/ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces) assumed the KAB operations responsibility in July.
In 2008, over 153 million gallons of products were provided in support of OEF, According to DESC FACTBOOK2008 (published in 2009). This makes 10,000 barrels per day. Russian grade aviation fuel (TS1) and ground fuels are supplied via supplier facilities in Afghanistan, but originate in Northern Central Asia / Russia.
Something wrong here? To me, yes! Back in 2006 I wrote on my blog that “In total, the US military consumes roughly 16 kbd of oil in Afghanistan. Of this amount roughly 2.7 kbd comes from Turkmenistan, 2.4 kbd from Uzbekistan and 10.8 kb/d from Pakistan.” According to a presentation by DESC in the same year, in fact 570 000 gallons per day, or 13,600 barrels per day,(1) of bulk fuel was supplied to the US bases in Afghanistan. That estimate, however, excluded deliveries from Uzbekistan.
And now DESC says that despite the surge in troop numbers the US military consumes less fuel? Where are the missing barrels?
“In fact, the battle is fought and decided by the storeman and quartermasters before the shooting begins.” - German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel