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The Biofuels Solution

After the National Oilheat Research Alliance held a Technical Workshop in Newport, R.I., that featured speakers from the U.S. and overseas fuel oil industries, John Huber, NORA’s president, said, “We’re very happy with how it went. People were really enthusiastic, and we had pretty good representation across the spectrum of the industry.”

Huber added, “It’s always interesting and entertaining to see what the Europeans are doing.”

Indeed, Lambert Lucks of IWO, the Institute for Heating and Oil Technology in Germany, told attendees that Germany is aiming for an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050—in effect consigning heating oil to a minority role—while pursuing a plan to build up alternative energy sources. Germany is more solar-oriented, Huber said, and in general, “The Europeans have not endorsed biofuels as a long-term solution like we have. We think that liquid fuels have some unique advantages and will allow us to continue to sell a liquid product—and possibly even expand our liquid product offering into air conditioning, stand-by generators and a lot of other [applications] where you need power or heat. So that’s why we’ve gone all in.”

Sales of pure biodiesel in the U.S. exceeded two billion gallons in 2015, a fact that many people are unaware of, said Steve Howell, a consultant, chair of ASTM International’s biodiesel task force, and senior technical advisor to the National Biodiesel Board. Howell gave a presentation on the status of the U.S. biodiesel industry at the NORA Technical Workshop. “Our approach here is [for biodiesel] to be 50 percent of the market by 2030,” and “potentially 100 percent of the market by 2050,” said Howell. “We’re going to transform this industry from the existing fuels—petroleum-based, high-carbon, high-sulfur fuels—to ULS fuels and to low-carbon renewable fuels.”

Production capacity in the U.S.—“plants already built that could produce biodiesel tomorrow”—is over three-and-a-half billion gallons, Howell said.

The U.S. uses somewhere between four and seven billion gallons of heating oil each year depending on the severity of weather and the fluctuation of prices, Howell noted.

“Our goal as an industry is to reach sales of four billion gallons of pure biodiesel—B100—by 2022,” Howell said.

In September the New York City Council passed legislation that would raise the biodiesel level in heating oil sold within the city to 20% by 2034. The current level of biodiesel in heating oil sold in the city is 2%.

The bill, expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, according to the National Biodiesel Board, calls for incremental increases in the amount of biodiesel in heating oil in the city: to 5% by Oct. 1, 2017; to 10% in 2025; to 15% in 2030; and to 20% in 2034.

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