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OIF Fuel Distribution Challenges

Since the beginning of motorized warfare, successful execution of fuel distribution has been a
major challenge. This challenge remains as great today as it was in World War II. In the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), one of the biggest successes was the distribution of bulk fuel. Although fuel continues to be distributed successfully, the way it is distributed has changed significantly since the early days of OIF.

Inland Petroleum Distribution System

In the initial stage of OIF, bulk fuel was distributed using a tactical pipeline, the Inland Petroleum Distribution System (IPDS). One reason for the decision to use this system was the shortage of fuel trucks in the area of responsibility (AOR). With IPDS, the Army could issue more than 1.5 million gallons of JP8 per day directly from the Kuwaiti refineries to a fuel farm. More than 90 million gallons of fuel were used in the first 3 months of OIF, 60 million gallons of which were transported via IPDS. IPDS was instrumental to the success of the initial phase of OIF.

Although IPDS proved to be a success, it became apparent that IPDS alone would not meet the requirements when the operation continued longer than initially planned and the battlefield changed from a linear to a nonlinear battlefield. It also became apparent that additional fuel hubs would be needed throughout Iraq.

In 2003, most of the fuel was stored in Kuwait and transported via an IPDS pipeline to Iraq, where it was delivered to Cedar II, a major hub located in south-central Iraq. From there, it was delivered by truck to other locations. As the battlespace grew, additional hubs had to be established in western and northern Iraq. The distance from Kuwait to the hubs in western and northern Iraq was too great for the Department of Defense to effectively distribute fuel to those locations using IPDS. This shortfall created the need to begin distributing fuel from other sources closer to the hubs in western and northern Iraq.

In the beginning of OIF, only one unit was responsible for overseeing the theater petroleum distribution plan: the 49th Quartermaster Group (Petroleum and Water), which owned the product and the fuel distribution system. However, with the increase in requirements and the OIF battlespace significantly increasing, it became clear that executing the fuel distribution plan would require more coordination and more Logistics Civil Augmentation Program capability.

Defense Energy Support Center

Increased storage and distribution requirements created the need for more coordination with strategic partners and other services. The Defense Energy Support Center (DESC), the executive agent for fuel distribution, provides the policies, contract administration for delivery, accountability, and quality assurance of Department of Defense bulk fuel to the AOR. The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Joint Petroleum Office plans and coordinates the receipt, storage, and distribution of bulk petroleum product for the CENTCOM AOR.

The Sub-Area Petroleum Office (SAPO) is the single point of contact for bulk fuel inland distribution in the CENTCOM AOR. The SAPO mission is to work with other agencies to ensure all actions coordinated are validated according to the Joint Petroleum Office’s petroleum plans and priorities. The 1st Theater Sustainment Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, interfaces with DESC, the CENTCOM Joint Petroleum Office, and SAPO to plan, coordinate, and distribute bulk petroleum in the CENTCOM AOR.

The current Iraq theater fuel supply plan has a daily requirement of 1.7 million gallons of JP8, 274,000 gallons of DF2, and 31,000 gallons of mogas. Bulk fuel storage capacity has grown from 8 million gallons of JP8 in 2003 to the current 40 million gallons of JP8, 8 million gallons of DF2, and 1.9 million gallons of mogas. This fuel is stored in a combination of four general service hubs, six direct service hubs in Iraq, and two hubs in Kuwait.

Turkey delivers fuel to northern Iraq, and Jordan delivers to western Iraq. Fuel re­quirements in south and central Iraq continue to be supported from Kuwait. Currently, Kuwait provides 57 percent of the JP8 requirement, Jordan provides 28 percent, and Turkey provides 15 percent. Each ground line of communication (GLOC) executes its fuel distribution in unique ways since all GLOCs face different challenges, such as geography, truck availability, or political influences. Currently, the most challenging GLOC of all provides support from Turkey. This GLOC is the most unpredictable and has the longest vehicle turnaround time, which varies from 14 to 24 days. To meet the requirement, the Turkey distribution network requires more vehicles than both Jordan and Kuwait. By contrast, the average turnaround time from Kuwait is about 6 days.

Although bulk fuel distribution remains as much a challenge today as it did in the beginning of OIF, it continues to be successful. The petroleum community has come together to execute a plan. Daily coordination takes place between strategic agencies and operational and tactical commands. In 2008, more than 1 billion gallons of fuel were successfully distributed in support of OIF.

Master Sergeant Johnny A. Castillo is the petroleum and water noncommissioned officer in charge for the 1st Theater Sustainment Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He has 23 years of petroleum operations experience at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in business.

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