September 4, 2015 – One of the biggest ongoing changes in the heating oil industry has been the move to ultra-low sulfur heating oil. Following federally mandated decreases, Connecticut legislators have required further reductions of sulfur contained in heating oil by July 1, 2018 – less than three years from now. Connecticut has also included requirements for the use of Bioheat® (a blend of biodiesel with heating oil), although the policy would only be implemented if neighboring states pass into law similar requirements. Biodiesel is a type of fuel made from renewable sources such as vegetable oils and animal fats.
These requirements were the subject of a recent report to Congress by the National Oilheat Research Alliance, an organization that was established to strengthen the heating oil industry by improving education and training for employees, providing information to consumers, and developing energy-efficient products for oilheat customers.
Cleaner heating oil means lower maintenance costs
What does this all mean to our customers? According to the report, ultra-low sulfur heating oil with Bioheat lowers maintenance, improves efficiency and reduces pollution from heating systems.
Here at Valley Energy, we’ve seen a significant reduction in service calls to customers using ultra-low sulfur heating oil. Equipment stays clean longer and breaks down less. And we expect this trend to continue as Bioheat is increasingly used.
Does biodiesel require heating oil equipment modifications?
In blends of up to 20% biodiesel, no major changes (and sometimes no changes at all) need to be made to heating oil equipment.
While 20% may not sound like much, the short-term goal of the industry is to move to higher-level biodiesel blends. The National Oilheat Research Alliance and the National Biodiesel Board are working to develop a 100% biodiesel fuel that will be suitable for heating oil applications and a burner that can be used to burn 100% biodiesel. Although this may require some technological changes in heating equipment, we can expect that the next generation of equipment may include more compact and efficient boilers and furnaces.
What about natural gas?
Advances in heating oil and biodiesel technology have resulted in a cleaner product overall and also a cleaner product relative to natural gas. Efficiency levels remain unchanged with the addition of biodiesel. According to the National Oilheat Research Alliance report, ultra-low sulfur heating oil that has been blended with 20% Bioheat (also known as “B20”) is lower in greenhouse gas emissions than natural gas when evaluated over 100 years, while blends of 2% (“B2”) or more are lower in GHG than natural gas when evaluated over 20 years. In addition, biodiesel blends provide added lubrication and a higher, safer flashpoint than conventional fuel oils.
Biodiesel blends are currently less expensive than ultra-low sulfur heating oil, and customers are seeing additional benefits from avoiding costly repairs and cleaning. They’re also doing their part to reduce sulfur and greenhouse gas emissions while adding value to the U.S. economy by processing crude vegetable oils, animal fats and waste oils into a usable fuel. Contact us for more information on how Valley Energy can make your home or business more efficient.