Catherine is the President of Luthin Associates, an energy management consulting firm that proactively manages energy procurement and sustainability services for their clients.
With the passage of Local Law 43 by the City Council last year, a minimum of 2% biodiesel must be blended into all grades of heating oil – #2, #4, and #6 beginning in October 2012. Local Law 43 also requires that the sulfur content in #4 heating oil be reduced from 3,000 parts per million (ppm) to 1,500 ppm (a NYS law also passed last year requires that sulfur in #2 heating oil be reduced to 15 ppm by July 2012).
This came about because of New York City’s poor air quality – the Fed gives the city a failing grade. The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has concluded that buildings using the dirtiest heating oils—#4 and #6—are a major cause of the city’s high air-pollution levels. Further, the hospitalization rate of New York City children with asthma (which is aggravated by pollution) is twice the national average. This caused the city to look into cleaner alternative fuels for heating. One solution? A bit of biodiesel in the heating oil mix.
Biodiesel is a 100% renewable fuel that is made from domestic soy oil, recycled restaurant grease and numerous other sustainable “feedstocks.” Biodiesel contains zero sulfur and greatly reduces air emissions when blended with traditional heating oil.
Here are some of the most common questions on biofuels, and answers to them:
Where do I purchase these fuels?
By the 2012 heating season, when the legislation kicks in, all of these products are expected to be widely available. However, biodiesel is competitively priced and readily available today. All bioheat oil sold in New York must meet ASTM biodiesel spec D6751 and heating oil spec D396.
Are there different grades of biodiesel fuel?
Yes. Biodiesel fuel comes in a variety of blends of biofuel/petroleum oil. Common blends include B2 which is 2% biodiesel, B5 which is 5% biodiesel, B20 which is 20% biodiesel, up to B100 which is 100% biodiesel. Under Local Law 43 B2 is the minimum biodiesel heating oil blend that is required.
Will I need to purchase new equipment?
No, a biodiesel blend does not require any new equipment. All of these blends, from B2 to B20 grade replace traditional heating oil. It is advised to perform a complete tank cleaning prior to the use of biofuels and to replace the oil furnace filter. It is also recommended to check with the boiler manufacturer to ensure the warranty will not be violated by the use of biofuels.
Will I pay more for biofuel?
Yes, you will pay more, but these heating fuels burn cleaner, which means they will require less maintenance and less product burned, potentially offsetting some additional costs per gallon. Though B2 is competitively priced, there is an escape clause which states that if the price of minimum 2% biodiesel is at least 15% more than the price of comparable 100% petroleum heating oil, 100% petroleum heating oil can be used. In addition, for B2 and all blends of biodiesel up to B20, New York State offered residential customers a penny per gallon tax credit which has amounted to big savings for customers this past heating season.
Are there incentives for those who purchase biofuels?
There currently exists a tax credit for the purchase of biofuels used for space heating or hot water production for residential purposes within New York State. The tax credit is equal to $0.01 per each percent of biodiesel per gallon of biofuel purchased. For example, B2 (2% biodiesel blend) is eligible for a $0.02 per gallon tax credit. The maximum eligible credit is $0.20 per gallon for B20 (20% biodiesel blend). At present, this incentive is set to expire December 31, 2011.
Photo credit: John Barrie