OFTEC’s B30K Bioheat Oil initiative has thus far failed to gain traction in the UK and Republic of Ireland. However, in the USA, the door has opened for homeowners who want to use high blends of cleaner burning biofuel in their heating oil.
ASTM International, the organisation which sets industry consensus standards for fuels, has confirmed new performance specifications for blends of 6% – 20% biodiesel with traditional heating oil. Existing No. 1 and No. 2 heating oil grades in the USA already have up to 5% biodiesel, as per ASTM D396. The blend is branded Bioheat® fuel.
“The oil heating industry is reinventing itself as a 21st century fuel by moving to higher blends of low carbon biodiesel and ultra low sulphur levels across the board,” said John Huber, president of the National Oilheat Research Alliance.
The new B6-B20 grade is a blend of all the parameters contained in the existing No. 1 and No. 2 heating oil grades, but adds parameters for stability and allows a slightly higher distillation temperature for the blends. The changes are the same as those for B6-B20 in on-and-off-road diesel fuel passed by ASTM in 2008.
“The data set behind these changes is one of the most extensive I’ve seen in more than 20 years at ASTM,” said Steve Howell of M4 Consulting, an ASTM Fellow who chairs the ASTM Biodiesel Task Force.
“Having an official standard for higher biodiesel blends in heating oil will help foster consumer confidence, and give blenders and distributors a needed tool to incorporate more low carbon, ultra-low sulfur biodiesel into heating oil.”
Biodiesel is also renewable, biodegradable, nontoxic, and has a much higher flash point than traditional heating oil, which it is claimed makes it a safer to handle and a more environmentally friendly fuel. With this accomplishment, Howell said work will now begin on the next level of research needed to secure official specifications for even higher blends of biodiesel in heating oil. This will likely extend to the use of pure biodiesel (B100), a stated goal of the heating oil industry.
“Brookhaven National Laboratory surveys of customers already using biodiesel blends not only showed similar or better experience than with traditional fuel oil, they also showed many already use B20 or higher blends with great success,” Howell said.
Traditional petroleum-based heating oil companies in the USA that have already made the switch to Bioheat fuel agree.
“The technical data with this ballot for the new B6-B20 grade verified what we have known for years — that B20 made with high quality biodiesel works well,” said Seth Obetz, president of Pennsylvania-based Bioheat distributor Worley and Obetz. “We have marketed high quality B20 for 14 years and our customers see fewer problems with B20 than with conventional heating oil.”
The official vote to change the standard took place at the December 2014 ASTM meeting. At that meeting, wholesale fuel provider Amerigreen reported that it has more than 100,000 B20 customers. The company said that number is growing in part because Bioheat fuel customers see less maintenance than with conventional fuel oil.