The story of the Broquet fuel catalyst began in 1941. On their entry into the war, Russia was initially offered 400 fighters to replenish the devastated Soviet Air Force. It was agreed that they would be serviced, maintained and flown by Russian personnel, but sufficient RAF personnel would accompany the first consignment of planes to train the ground forces and operationally fly the Hurricane's until the Russian's were proficient.
The Fighters provided were Hurricane's and, on the 12th August 1941, 151 Wing
was formed and comprised of two new squadrons 81 and 134. The very first
'Russian Convoy' to Murmansk was assembled and left Iceland, at the end of
August 1941, with 151 Wing ground and aircrew personnel. Some 15 crated
Hurricane's were also onboard but significantly, very little aviation fuel. Twenty four additional and fully operational Hurricane's were flown to Vaenga airfield at Murmansk, from the convoy protection aircraft carrier 'Argus', on 7th September. The remainder of the convoy carrying the Wing personnel (including engine specialist Henry
Broquet - pictured above right) on the 'Llanstephan Castle' were diverted to Keg
Ostrov airfield near Archangel, because of enemy action at Murmansk. Within
four days of arrival at Venga airfield, it was discovered that the available
Russian fuel was of a lower quality than that acceptable to the Merlin XX Engine
powering the Series II Hurricane. During their first operational flight, two pairs of
134 squadron suddenly lost power at altitude and their engines subsequently
cut out. By frantic hand pumping, the pilots were able to restart their engines only feet from the ground. One of those pilots, Niel Cameron, subsequently became Marshal of the Royal Air Force. Henry Boruqet was made aware of this problem and was seconded to work with a team of Russian Scientists to investigate and solve the fuel problem. In the meantime, the Hurricane's were obliged to operate below 16,000 feet, and limited to ground attack and bomber support.
This near disastrous first sortie can be attributed to the differing Western and Russian oil production industry philosophies. The bulk of Russian oil output, second only to the USA in the 1920's and '30's, was used for heating, lighting and heavy industry. Their use of fractionation refining produced only small quantities of petrol and of inconsistent quality. By contrast, Western technology used catalytic and thermal oil refining to produce higher quality petrol and in 1923 incorporated tetraethyl-lead as a performance booster. In 1941, so called high-octane Russian aviation petrol contained certain compounds which caused 'waxing; at low temperatures, and the addition of lead-tetraethyl was not a solution. The problem was unfortunately not limited to the Merlin XX, since the Russian's equally powerfully engined fighters were limited to 20,000 feet and operated at 15,000 feet. Therefore solving the fuel problem became a priority.
With the Russians being a leading authority in the fields of Organic Chemistry, Catalysis and Metallurgy, they firmly believed that a solution was possible, and proved competent in assessing the use of metal catalysts for stabalising and improving the characteristics of lubricating oil and fuels, in particular, the improved oxidation and combustion of hydrocarbon fuels. Whilst low cost lead-based compounds were widely used, tin (a key constituent of the Broquet fuel treatment catalyst) featured in this work. Tin had already been the subject of many 1930's patents.
Russia was, and still is, one of the world's leading tin producers. Tin was known to have outstanding stability and vastly superior catalytic properties, compared to lead-based alloys and compounds, for the reduction of fuel degrading reactions between various hydrocarbons and other fuel contaminating compounds. This in turn has an adverse effect on combustion efficiency. These degrading-reaction products also contribute to the 'waxing' effect. A number of different tin-alloy electro-catalysis reactions, in fuel hydrocarbon mixtures, which benefit combustion performance as well as fuel stability, were already documented in the '30's. The Russian technicians were therefore uniquely placed and Henry Broquet's contribution was to corroborate the work and advise on the response of the Merlin XX engine.
After the war, and following periods working in the UK, Henry joined a large South African Company operating a fleet of fishing vessels. Henry subsequently fitted the fuel catalyst to these engines and it's use resulted in significant cost-savings by reducing servicing and maintenance.
Henry eventually set up his own Company which became very successful based upon such applications as large ocean-going cargo vessels and heavy mining equipment, in addition to fishing fleets. As a consequence of this success, the Company attracted a hostile take-over by another Company. However, as Henry had never fully divulged the actual formula or process, the Company and its product was unsuccessful, and after 18 years the Company returned the legal rights to him. In 1986 Henry returned to the UK and again commenced the manufacturing and marketing of the catalyst which ultimately led to the formation of Broquet International Limited, in 1991.
rapid and successful achievements of the team in solving the fuel incompatability problem :
1. The Russians asked for the deliveries of Hurricanes at a greater rate than the importation of suitable aviation fuel. Some 3000 Merlin XX powered Hurricanes were finally supplied.
2. RAF maintenance records for 1943 acknowledge that a solid metal fuel catalyst was used in British aircraft in an unspecified theatre of war.
3. The formula for the fuel catalyst was brought back from Russia by Henry Broquet, who later used it in South Africa on large sea-going vessels (removal of hard carbon deposits from engines) undergound mining equipment (reduction of emissions) and fishing fleets (reduction of fuel consumption)