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NORA’s Pathway

As the heating oil industry charts a way forward, fending off natural gas competition on one side and now, we learn from John Huber, electrification on the other, the National Oilheat Research Alliance presses on, researching and developing oil-burning equipment and “greener” biofuel.

“We [want to] move to high levels of biodiesel, with highly efficient equipment,” Huber says of the oil heat industry.

A critical goal is making sure biofuels improve over time, Huber says. A project in Maine is designed to help do just that. A patented process to transform cellulosic material such as wood waste into a liquid for use in heating oil was developed years ago, and has been used to produce small volumes. A field test of the liquid, in heating equipment in the households of service technicians in Maine, is being conducted this winter.

“Converting wood to oil, from our perspective, would be a win every which way to Sunday,” Huber says.

On the equipment side, the industry must begin to compete with the efficiency of natural gas heat pumps. “That’s why we’re looking at development of an oil-fired heat pump,” Huber says, referring to work being done by Dr. Thomas Butcher, director of the NORA Research & Education Center in Plainview, N.Y., and others. To learn more about why these goals are critical to the well-being of the industry, see “NORA in 2018,” featured in the crawl of main stories at the top of the home page.

The New England Fuel Institute (NEFI) announced that Sean Cota has been named its president and chief executive officer, effective Dec. 8, 2017. Cota has been working full-time at the NEFI offices in Worcester, Mass., actively managing the organization’s leadership transition and overseeing its staff, the Institute said in a statement issued on Dec. 19.

Cota comes to the association with an extensive industry background, the organization pointed out in its announcement. For nearly 35 years, he worked for his family’s full-service heating oil and propane business, Cota & Cota of Bellows Falls, Vt. Cota served as president until his retirement from the company in 2011.

Cota has served on the NEFI board of directors since 1990 and was its chairman from 2008 to 2010. He also served as chairman of the NEFI Government Affairs Committee from 2002 to 2006. Additionally, Cota has held the chairmanship or other top leadership posts at a number of state and national associations, including the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA), National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA), and Vermont Fuel Dealers’ Association (VFDA).

During his three decades of association volunteer work, Cota has been a fierce advocate for issues important to heating fuel marketers, the statement noted. He has attended meetings at state houses and on Capitol Hill, testified more than a dozen times before Congressional committees and regulatory agencies, and been interviewed by the local, state, and national news media on a wide range of topics.

NEFI Chairman Mike Estes of Estes Oil & Propane in York, Me., said, “I am very excited our friend Sean Cota has been hired as our new president and CEO.” He added, “Sean’s knowledge of our industry, from both operations and legislative standpoints, will go a long way towards fulfilling NEFI’s vision of being the voice of the deliverable fuels industry in the region and in Washington, DC.”

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