Category Archives: Carbon Reduction

Technicians Manual Now in Audio & Digital formats

In keeping with the National Oilheat Research Alliance’s (NORA) ongoing commitment to technician education and to enable access to educational materials, it has just released its Technicians Manual for Liquid Heating Fuels in audio format.

Each chapter of the manual is available in a standard .mp3 audio file that can be played on all mobile devices, as well as desktop computers. The audio follows the text of the manual allowing for multi-sensory learning. Additionally, each chapter is available to download in a .pdf format.

According to NORA’s president Michael Devine, “Making high quality learning resources available to liquid fuel heating technicians is one of NORA’s highest priorities. Whether used as a stand-alone resource or in conjunction with NORA’s technician certification program, the manual and its audio component can bring this material to an even wider range of students and technicians.”

The audio version of the manual, along with the pdfs and a link to purchase a hard copy can be found at NORA’s online education and resource center, Learning.NORAweb.org/manual.

Net Zero Carbon Home Updates

The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) is setting out to prove that homeowners can reduce a home’s carbon emissions to zero using a renewable low carbon liquid fuel and solar panels. Indeed, the demonstration has already begun in Port Jefferson, NY at the home of NORA’s Director of Research, Dr. Thomas Butcher.

NORA has been a leader in the transition to low carbon liquid fuels in the home heating sector for decades through testing and promoting the use of the advanced biofuel biodiesel combined with traditional heating oil. NORA’s liquid fuels research laboratory in Plainview, NY is among the U.S.’s leading facilities conducting this type of research.

With public policy in many of the Northeastern states calling for drastic reductions in carbon emissions and traditional heating oil cannot satisfy those requirements, NORA intends to show that the combination of 100% biodiesel partnered with solar panels can bring the home to zero carbon emissions.

This strategy is an alternative to the “all electric” policy of replacing all combustion heating and other home appliances with power-grid run electric furnaces, boilers and appliances.

 The all-electric plan will place enormous strain on the utilities and the grid while also placing massive financial burdens on homeowners as they are required to replace their current heating systems with heat pumps. NORA’s zero-carbon home can achieve carbon reduction mostly using existing heating systems and commercially available solar panel systems.

Taking the carbon out of the fuel: The first step in decarbonizing a home heating system is transitioning to a low carbon biofuel. The biofuel widely available to the heating market in the Northeast is biodiesel (ASTM D6751). Relative to petroleum No. 2 fuel, 100% biodiesel (B100) provides a carbon reduction of 75% to 90% with the higher 90% reduction based on the use of waste feed stocks such as used cooking oil. Replacing petroleum with B100 can provide reductions in carbon of up to 90%.

Work is ongoing within the biodiesel industry on reducing even the small amount of carbon emissions associated with biodiesel production and the picture is expected to get even better. The residual emissions can be minimized using a high-efficiency boiler of furnace.

The transition to B100 was made at the Butcher home in 2020 with the biodiesel fuel supplied by Hart Home Comfort, Oakdale, NY. The steel tank is indoors and approximately 15 years old. The tank was filled without cleaning prior to the introduction to B100. There have been no notable service issues since the transition. The heating system includes an Energy Kinetics System 2000, about 10 years old.

Adding Solar Panels: The second step is the addition of solar panels on the roof of the home, which can produce more or less power than the home needs at any time of the day. The system installed at Butcher’s home does not include a storage battery but rather “extra” power is exported back to the grid. The home’s historical annual electric power use is 7,199 kilowatt hours, including a central air conditioning system. The annual production capacity of the solar panels installed is a nominal 7,914 kilowatt hours. In addition to eliminating carbon associated with power used in the home, the surplus power sent back to the grid reduces carbon emissions further and provides an offset to the small amount of carbon emissions associated with the biodiesel use.

Making Financial Sense: The solar panel system at Butcher’s home was installed by Long Island Power Solutions, Ronkonkoma, NY. The State and Federal Governments offered financial incentives for installing solar panels, making the installation attractive.

At the time the installation was planned, the residential power rate was approximately $0.23 per kilowatt hour. At this rate, the payback period was calculated at seven years with an effective annual payback of 14.3%. At the time of this writing, it has risen to $0.28 per kilowatt hour making the payback period drop to 5.74 years after which, the electric cost will effectively be zero.

“With uncertainty about future rates, I feel this was a great step to eliminate electric bills,” noted Dr. Butcher.

“These steps to quickly make my home carbon-free have been very easy, I didn’t make any changes to my heating system. The investment I have made in the solar panels will pay back quickly and I feel we are ready for the upcoming decades with a system that keeps us warm, provides plenty of hot water, and will end up being the cheapest approach.”

NORA’s Net Zero Carbon Home will continue to be monitored for financial returns and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction values and upgrades to further the carbon emission reductions will be assessed.

Getting Involved

NORA would like to extend the Zero-Carbon Home project to other U.S. States. If you have an interest in working with NORA, contact info@noraweb.org.

Updates...

NORA’s goal is to create demonstration homes that are be net-zero emitters of carbon. Labeled the Net Zero Carbon Home Project, the homes will replace standard heating fuel with 100% biodiesel (B100) while relying on solar PV roof panels to generate renewable, carbon free electricity for non-heating uses. Since biodiesel is not yet fully carbon neutral, the solar PV system needed to be sized to produce more energy than the home requires. The excess carbon-free electricity could then be transferred back to the grid and offset the small amount of carbon emissions from biodiesel.

A calculator created by NORA utilizes a number of parameters such as fuel usage and electricity consumption to calculate how much oversizing of the PV system is required to make the home carbon neutral. The following table shows a sample calculation.

Table 1: Sample calculations that show how a home can be carbon neutral using biodiesel and solar PV
Click image to enlarge.

The first of these demonstrations is the home of Dr. Thomas Butcher, Director of Research of the NORA Liquid Fuels Laboratory in Plainview, NY. Dr. Butcher’s home was already using B100 for heating and subsequently solar PV panels were installed for the non-heating energy needs.

 Using biodiesel consumption (due to hot water production), electrical usage and power generated by PV system, it was found that Butcher’s home was Net-Zero (and beyond) for the months of July, August and September 2022. This is shown in the figure below with comparative values of carbon emissions if he had been using No. 2 heating oil and did not have solar PV installed.

Despite a significant airconditioning load in the summer, as shown by the blue bars, each of the summer months contributed to a lowering of the carbon intensity of the grid by producing more energy than was used in the house, as shown by the brown bars.

The question as we enter the winter and biodiesel consumption increases, will the solar on his roof and the savings from the summer be enough to make his house a Net Zero home for the entire year. Preliminary calculations say “yes” but look forward to an update in the spring of 2023.

NORA is working with various state energy organizations to find additional suitable homes for this project.

Figure 1: Carbon emission comparison for Butcher home with and without proposed changes (B100 and solar PV)
Click image to enlarge.

 

 

Inflation Reduction Act Recognizes Low-Carbon Liquid Heating Fuels for GHG Reductions

Congress and President Biden have recognized the critical role that the transition to low-carbon biofuels in homes heated with fuel oil will play in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), includes legislation that incentivizes the heating oil industry to improve the efficiency of its equipment while increasing the amount of biodiesel blended into the fuel. Both are essential in reaching the goal of reducing GHG emissions to zero. The IRA encourages the liquid heating fuels industry to continue to move forward with its transformation to a clean and green heating source.

This bill’s enactment was largely due to the efforts of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), representing the State that uses the most heating oil.The IRA provides for homeowner tax credits of $600 for each new oil/biofuel blend compatible heating appliance.

Congress has set two major steps/goals to qualify:
For equipment placed in service after Dec. 31, 2022, the equipment must meet 2021 Energy Star efficiencies and be suitable for a 20% blend of biodiesel or renewable diesel use.
For equipment placed in service after Dec. 31, 2026, the equipment must have an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) of at least 90% and be suitable for a 50% blend of biodiesel or renewable diesel use.  

Michael Devine, President of the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA), commented, “These are achievable goals for our industry. Most oil burner manufacturers are already compliant with the 20% biodiesel blend minimum for next year and plan to have models that meet the 2027 requirement of 50% biodiesel or renewable diesel in 2023. This is very exciting news as it indicates Congress’ endorsement of our industry’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions in heating fuels. It provides guideposts for a reasonable path forward in reducing greenhouse gases in fuel and improving equipment.”

The oil heating industry has been on the path to reducing GHG emissions for years with the widespread adoption of blending biodiesel (an advanced biofuel) into traditional heating oil. Additionally, States in the Northeast have included mandates or other incentives to include the blended fuel in their master energy plans. NORA, in concert with research partners such as Clean Fuel Alliance of America (CFAA), Brookhaven National Laboratory, oilfired heating equipment manufacturers and numerous heating oil retail marketers, has thoroughly tested, both in the laboratory and in the field, the blended fuels for safety, efficiency, reliability and GHG reductions.

Environmental groups that have been championing GHG reduction strategies had this to say about the IRA.

The Natural Resources Defense Council
“This is the most significant action the U.S. has ever taken to combat climate change. It will benefit the people of all 50 States—their health, their wallets, their homes and their future. And it will help the U.S. deliver on its undeniable responsibility to the rest of the world to do its part to address this global crisis. The House needs to come back quickly to cement this essential climate action. There is no time to waste. This bill is not perfect, but from a climate pollution perspective, the positives heavily outweigh the negatives—by a factor of 10.” 

The Rocky Mountain Institute“This legislation gives the U.S. a real chance to reach its Paris Agreement—while lowering costs for American households.”

The World Wildlife Fund
Among the most important provisions are the $9 billion in consumer home energy rebates. This includes 10 years of tax credits aimed at allowing American homes to run on more energy efficient and clean systems, which will save them money. 

With the passage of the IRA, homeowners can invest in new, more efficient and environmentally-beneficial heating systems with consumer federal tax incentives, provided by the Government. By upgrading their heating system, they will know they are taking the appropriate path towards a zero-carbon future. 

New Bioheat® fuel registered trademark agreement

Clean Fuels Alliance America (CFAA) along with the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) announced the release, for immediate review and execution, the newest version of their Bioheat® Fuel Trademark License Agreement. The new agreement references Clean Fuels new name (formerly the National Biodiesel Board) as well a subtle revision that helps improve the document for both parties.

To simplify the registration process, a website has been developed where current and new registrants may go to access the agreement for review and execution with Clean Fuels staff. After execution of a completed agreement, registrants will be sent the completed and ready for use digital logo files which include four versions:

  • Bioheat® fuel
  • Bioheat® Plus fuel
  • Bioheat® Super Plus
  • Bioheat® fuel, “The Evolution of Oilheat®”

“We are excited to roll out this agreement for new and existing licensees that will ensure the proper promotion of Bioheat® fuel,” said Brad Shimmens, director of operations and membership for Clean Fuels. “We appreciate consumers and fuel marketers for their commitment to the only liquid heating fuel that can lower carbon emissions, both improving the environment and human health.”

Michael Devine, NORA President, added, “The retailers that constitute the liquid heating fuel industry are aggressively transitioning their companies and their customers to the low carbon fuel, Bioheat®. Significantly reducing carbon emissions from home heating oil is NORA’s goal and the partnership with CFAA and the Bioheat® fuel retailers is instrumental to getting us there.”

All questions specific to the proper use of the trademarks can be addressed by contacting Brad Shimmens at Clean Fuels or by phone 800-841-5849.

Bioheat® fuel is a blend of biodiesel and ultra-low sulfur heating fuel. A more eco-friendly alternative to both traditional heating fuel and natural gas, Bioheat® fuel can be used in existing home heating fuel systems. Bioheat® fuel is available right now and is currently offered in three tiers based on how much biodiesel is in the fuel:

  • Blends ranging from 2% to 5% biodiesel (B2–B5) are referred to as Bioheat® fuel.
  • Blends ranging from 6% to 20% biodiesel (B6–B20) are referred to as Bioheat® Plus fuel.
  • Blends 21% – 100% biodiesel are referred to as Bioheat® Super Plus fuel.