Most people in this country drive cars, and most of those cars have internal combustion engines that burn fossil fuels. Many people who care about climate change and the environment still burn gasoline for transportation. The reason is clear. We cannot all go electric at once. There aren’t enough electric cars, and there wouldn’t be enough electricity to run them all, if they were all we drove.
The situation for heating is similar. Here in the Northeast, most homes use natural gas, oil, or propane for heat. If we all decided to convert to electric heat tomorrow, we would not be able to do it. Today’s heat pump technology still needs improvement, there aren’t enough skilled installers to put them in, and the grid would not be able to supply enough electricity to keep them going.
Clearly, it will be necessary to keep large numbers of oil burners going for some time. It is not something that we have a choice about. This is just the way things are.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to using fossil fuels for oil burners. These are mostly made up of biodiesel blended fuels, which are made from various fats and oil, with the specifics of the fuel dependent on both the supplier and the use. Among the many feedstocks used to produce Bioheat® fuel are soybean oil, used cooking oil, animal fats, distillers corn oil and canola… The equipment burning such oils ranges from diesel cars to home heating oil systems. The renewable fuel is produced through transesterification to chemically produce biodiesel meeting ASTM standards.
The advancement of biodiesel will decrease our country’s dependency on foreign nations for energy, reduce carbon emissions and support the American agricultural sector.
Biodiesel is usually blended with some percentage of diesel fuel or heating oil.. The blend is named according to the percentage of biodiesel in it. So, for example, B10 indicates that 10% of the oil is from biological sources. It can be used as a drop-in replacement for diesel oil and managed similar to conventional diesel and heating oil.
Levi Bourne, President at Bourne’s Energy said, “At the Bourne’s Energy plant we can blend any blend of biofuel using recycled cooking oil and feel good that this fuel is produced locally for our Vermont community. It’s biodegradable, nontoxic, and ecologically the best and highest use of waste vegetable oil. It’s a full circle and since it doesn’t require any additional investment or change to your equipment, it couldn’t be any easier to reduce your carbon footprint with biofuel.”
In 2019, at the National Energy and Fuels Institute conference the heating oil industry unanimously resolved to fully embrace Bioheat® and increase the percentage of biologically derived fuels to 50% by 2030 and to the point it hits net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
It happens that home heating oil and diesel fuel are nearly identical in their makeup, so it makes sense to use biodiesel for heating a home or business instead of traditional fossil fuels. In this way, the carbon emissions from heating can be reduced without any change or additional investment to the heating system.
We should be clear about this. For nearly any application where home heating oil is used, the carbon footprint of heating the building can be reduced quite a lot by simply changing the blend of oil that is used.
To assess the implications for a particular home, we must consider several factors. First of all, we should think about the age and condition of the current heating system. If an oil-burning furnace is really on its last legs and needs to be replaced, that is one thing. But if the heat is coming from a new, high efficiency oil furnace, that is another altogether, because it has its own embodied energy, so air sealing and insulation might be better uses for money than putting in a new heating system. In that case, it would make perfect sense to reduce the carbon footprint of the fuel by going to a blend with less fossil fuel in it.
For Green Energy Times readers Main-Care Energy and Bourne’s Energy supply Bioheat®. Main-Care covers regions in northeastern New York State and areas in Vermont near Bennington and Rutland. Bourne’s Energy supplies Bioheat® to Vermont.