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Looking into the Future

Recently I had an opportunity to attend a workshop sponsored by the National Oil Heat Research Alliance. I was no less than impressed with the information that was given by the presenters from England, Germany and the U.S. There were professional men and woman in attendance from several segments of our industry.

I learned that in Germany the goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Advanced burner concepts were also discussed, and a main topic was the development of self-modulating, biodiesel-compatible burners, as well as vaporizing burner technology. A U.S. burner manufacturing representative discussed #2 fuel with 1% vegetable oil added and the effect it will have on a burner’s operation.

Regarding burners of the future, remember this name: Babington Technology. This company, based in Rocky Mount, N.C., manufactures a burner that I predict will become more visible over the next 10 years or perhaps sooner. The burner, so I’m told, was originally developed for the military for the purpose of field cooking. The Babington unit weighs in at about 11.5 pounds, has pump pressure of 15 psi, and features dual-fired atomization, low-energy ignition, a 32-bit micro-processor control, automatically adjusting air/fuel mixture, and a firing rate of two-tenths to one-gallon per hour.

I must say that it was particularly interesting to learn more about the effect that ULS fuel has on the burner pump strainers, tank filters and the fuel delivery system. A speaker from a large Connecticut-based, family-owned oil company showed several examples of how much cleaner these critical parts were after using the ULS fuel. He had collected data in a long-term, detailed study. I can say that if we can achieve cleaner fuel and longer-lasting parts, we will see fewer service issues.

I have questions about the life span of the fuel oil. I have heard that after a year of storage the oil could possibly have a noticeable sludge appearance. This to me will be a wait-and-see situation. I recently had my electronic fuel gauge fail and after testing the remote wired receiver, I simply concluded that after eight years the gauge had finally quit. I determined that this was a good time to install a true wireless gauge, called the Rocket. To install the Rocket, I removed the old in-the-tank sending unit. To my surprise the part that slides up and down and sends the fuel level reading to the remote receiver was completely packed with black sludge. My first thought, based on what I heard at the NORA workshop, was that ULS fuel will certainly help prevent these types of issues.

Looking further ahead, I know that many oil dealers and mechanical contractors are hoping for oil prices that are competitive with natural gas and LP gas prices, and a winter with more degree days than the previous one. During the third week of September I had a 37-degree morning. I hope that by the time this column appears the degree days will have begun to accumulate.

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