Category Archives: Research

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.

 

 

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.
19Nov/21

NORA Releases Report on Equipment Upgrade Incentive Project

The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) has released a recently completed report on its Equipment Upgrade Incentive Project. The report examines the impact of rebates on efficiency, reductions in gallons of fuel used, savings to consumers and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. These rebate incentive programs have been used in many states for several years. 

At the time the report’s release, NORA rebates had been used to support the installation of 6,412 liquid fuel fired boilers. This is approximately 1/10 of 1% of the liquid fuel powered heating equipment in the field. The dramatic gains in efficiency over the units replaced yielded big savings to the customers and to society.

On average, fuel consumption was reduced by 170 gallons per year per home. At $3.20 per gallon of fuel, this means a savings of $544 per year. If a $500 rebate encouraged early replacement by 1 year, the return on investment would be 8.8%. A boiler has a typical useful life of 25 years; they often last much longer. Total savings over the life of a boiler would be $13,600 in current dollars.

The societal savings are also dramatic. For these 6,412 boilers that were replaced, over one million gallons of fuel will not be used for the next 25 years. This represents a total of 27,251,000 gallons of fuel not burned over the life of the boiler. This translates into $87 million dollars saved; money that can be spent in the local economies.

Additionally, the replacement boilers represent nearly 396,000 tons of CO2e that will not be put into the atmosphere.

The study used in-field measurements of fuel consumption (before and after equipment changes).
The researchers used actual delivery data of fuel to determine fuel use in a particular home prior to the equipment change and then evaluated consumption after the installation. The study did not rely on equipment ratings or other manufacturer evaluations of equipment. It captured in-use and actual savings to a consumer.

According to Dr. Thomas Butcher, NORA’s Technical Director and the study’s lead author, “The report provides powerful evidence of the benefits of improved equipment installed in homes and also the types of equipment that will yield the most savings for consumers.”

NORA will be developing communication pieces for service personnel and consumers so they can maximize the efficiency of their home. This information will also be invaluable to manufacturers as they develop equipment that reduces consumption in real world applications.

27Jul/21

NORA Releases 2022-2023 Budget for Comment

The proposed 2022 and 2023 biennial budget for the National Oilheat Research Alliance has been under development for several months. The NORA Finance Committee and the Executive Committee have reviewed the 2022 & 2023 budget and it is now being released for public comment.

At the conclusion of the public comment period, the budget will be forwarded to the Department of Energy.

Anyone interested in commenting on this should forward comments, by September 1, 2021, to JHuber@NORAweb.org.

The 2022 and 2023 budget incorporates the 2014 and 2018 changes in the NORA statute emphasizing research and development and adds an energy efficiency component. Additionally, the budget continues to emphasize the close working relationships with the state associations. For more information about NORA and its programs or services, call 703-340-1660 or visit the web site, NORAweb.org.

03Jun/21

“Future of Liquid Heating Fuels” conference completed

The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) and EUROFUEL hosted their second annual conference titled Low-Carbon Liquid Heating Fuels: Putting the Pieces Together. This follows last year’s widely attended Low-Carbon Liquid Heating Fuels in a Carbon Constrained World
The 2021 conference was hosted on two consecutive Thursdays, May 20 & 27, with sessions approximately two hours in length.
Each day focused on a general topic:
Thursday, May 20: Public Policy & Greenhouse Gas Reductions
Thursday, May 27: Technology Advancements—Are They Positioning Us for a Future?

26Feb/21

European/North American Conference on the Future of Liquid Heating Fuels: “Putting the Pieces Together”

As the liquid heating fuels industry prepares for its low-carbon future, the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) and the Eurofuel Association will host its second annual conference titled, Low-Carbon Liquid Heating Fuels: Putting the Pieces Together on May 20 & 27, 2021. This follows last year’s widely attended Low-Carbon Liquid Heating Fuels in a Carbon Constrained World conference. The 2021 event, presented online, will feature speakers and topics with the goal of putting the pieces in place to answer the questions on transitioning to low-carbon fuels that were identified during the 2020 event.

Moritz Bellingen, Chairman of Eurofuel stated, “The magnitude of the challenges posed by the energy transition requires a variety of solutions. We cannot afford to exclude any solutions that have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Low-carbon heating liquid fuels are part of the solution. Innovation is fostering the creation of new low-carbon liquid solutions that strike the right balance between emission reduction and consumer requirements.”

John Huber, NORA’s president, said, “The liquid fuel heating industries in North America and Europe both face severe pressures to adapt to low-carbon fuels. By working together to advance appliance technology and fuels, we can create and implement successful strategies that will guarantee our role in the energy sector for generations.”
The 2021 conference will be hosted on two consecutive Thursdays, May 20 & 27, with sessions approximately two hours in length. Each day will begin at 9am U.S. Eastern Daylight Savings Time and 3pm in Europe (UTC+1).

The first day of the Conference, May 20: Public Policy & Greenhouse Gas Reductions will review carbon reduction public policy actions in some of the states in the U.S. and several countries of Europe as well as what effect Brexit will have on policy in the UK. Various mechanisms for encouraging low-carbon fuel use will be addressed including carbon taxes, low-carbon fuel standards & mandates as well the push towards electrification (heat pumps). Additionally, the program will address how other renewable fuel users (aviation, trucking, off-road) intersect with the heating industry and are there any technical or legal obstacles to low-carbon liquid fuel use?

The second day, May 27: Technology Advancements—Are They Positioning Us for a Future? will focus on the technologies of the fuels themselves and which markets are they best able to serve, the state of the heating equipment available and their ability to accommodate low carbon fuels and meet the efficiency requirements needed.

We encourage everyone to mark their calendars for this event.

30Jun/20

NORA & Eurofuel host online conference on the future of liquid fuels

For the first time ever, the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) and Eurofuel (European Heating Oil Association) will host a virtual conference on liquid heating fuels in a carbon constrained world. Manufacturers of heating equipment, liquid fuels now in the market and potential fuels of the future will share their ideas and what steps they are taking to be ready for this future.

Continue reading
30Jun/20

Impact on service by biodiesel blends in heating oil

The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) has conducted periodic surveys to assess the impact and role that biofuels play in the marketplace. Many view low-carbon fuels as the best path for the industry as it reduces its environmental impact. Biodiesel is a low-carbon fuel that is available in most markets, is used widely and offers significant reduction of the amount of carbon dioxide released by heating appliances.

NORA has conducted ongoing research in this area and has found that the transition to higher blends of biodiesel can occur with low costs and little impact on the consumer. A number of retailers have been selling the higher blends of biodiesel.

To verify/validate the lab conclusions on biodiesel, NORA conducted a wide-ranging survey of retailers and service personnel. This latest survey, completed in December 2019 is summarized here.

See the survey report here

23Apr/20

New Fuel Storage Tanks Manual

The National Oilheat Research Alliance has released a new Advanced Gold Series manual, Heating Fuel Storage Tanks, to accompany its Advanced Storage Tank Gold Series course or as a stand-alone study guide.
Written by John Donohue, J Donohue Associates and John Levey, NORA, the new manual recognizes the importance of on-site liquid fuel storage to the homeowner and emphasizes the need to choose the correct tank type, install it properly and conduct ongoing inspections and maintenance.
With eleven chapters the manual covers:

  • Why Tanks Fail
  • Codes & Regulations
  • Tank Selection Criteria
  • Installation Procedures
  • Fuel Lines
  • Filtration
  • Fuel Valves and Accessories
  • Tank Inspection& Maintenance Procedures
  • Tank Abandonment
  • Service Guides 

In addition, two Appendices include six evaluation, inspection and delivery report checklists along with NORA’s Recommended Practice for Home Heating Oil Tank Flood Resistance white paper.

Heating Fuel Storage Tanks is available in either print or free digital versions at noraweb.org/advanced-study-manuals

16Mar/20

Technical Note: Nitrile Rubber and B20 Biodiesel Blends

A significant amount of new testing data on nitrile performance in U.S. heating oil equipment with biodiesel meeting today’s stringent ASTM standards is now available. This recent testing shows common nitrile elastomers in typical heating oil burner pumps in the U.S. perform the same or better using B20 than those using conventional No. 2 heating oil. The validity of this testing is supported by elastomer manufacturers marketing B-100 nitrile which could, if appropriate, be used by burner manufacturers. See Technical note here.