The industry buzz at the Northeast Bioheat Workshop this year in Pittsburg centered on the aggressive advertising campaign by the Natural Gas industry that promotes its product as the lower cost, domestically produced and more environmentally friendly solution to conventional oil heat.
NORA president John Huber took issue with the claims to environmental benefits, pointing out that “Methane is one of the world’s worst greenhouse gases, but the natural gas industry has ignored that.” (Methane is the primary component of natural gas and the largest source for greenhouse gas emissions. Methane is lost in all phases of natural gas production and distribution)
Massachusetts Oilheat Council President Michael Ferrante noted that the commercials were largely accurate, but struck a nerve. Ferrante said that the Oilheat market needs the environmental and efficiency benefits of biodiesel in order to compete with natural gas.
Bioheat blended with ULSD at the B20 level clearly outperforms domestic natural gas. However, heating systems are currently only approved at a B5 level. It is estimated that there are between 6 to 7 million Oilheat furnaces in residential homes. Expecting these homeowners to switch to new burners so they can run higher blends of Bioheat is not realistic, so it is critical that Bioheat’s impact on older equipment is assessed.
Michael Devine from the National Biodiesel Board spoke about the extensive marketing campaign underway in New York City to garner market acceptance for Bioheat, saying “Bioheat is the evolution of oil heat.”
Home heat dealers say that establishing legacy safe limits and bringing equipment approved for higher bioheat blends seems slow in coming. The industry is poised, waiting for state mandates to bring bioheat infrastructure forward. Although state mandates put fuel dealers all on a level playing field, it does not with other energy sources. How soon will we see equipment approvals and bioheat mandates to higher blends move forward?