Working with Biofuel

I would think by now that all tradesmen have heard the term “biofuel.” In my travels it seems to be becoming part of the everyday discussion about heating oil. For those of you who may be wondering, biofuel is a blend of two products: biodiesel and our standard home heating oil. You will also hear that there are several different blends, such as B2, B5, B20, and B100.

For example, B2 is 2% pure bio, B20 is 20% pure bio and B100 is 100% pure biodiesel.

In 2008, ASTM D396 provided specs for both # 1 and #2 home heating oil and approved up to 5% bio blend for home heating oil. So, 95% mineral oil blended with 5% bio is classified as B5.

Much of the biofuel testing has been conducted at The Brookhaven National Laboratory with the support of NORA—the National Oilheat Research Alliance—and the National Biodiesel Board, with one of the goals being to move heating oil to a lower sulfur level, along with lowering the greenhouse gas emissions. Biofuel can be used in standard oil-heating equipment, requiring little to no specific changes.

I learned from a dealer who tracked service on customers’ heating equipment that, compared to conventional heating oil, biofuel burns cleaner, resulting in less required maintenance. This same dealer saved a year’s worth of oil filter cartridges and pump strainers from equipment that had burned biofuel. He showed them to me, and I was amazed how clean they were. When bio was first tested, it was discovered that in some cases standard oil pump seals, gaskets and valve seats failed when exposed to biodiesel blends. The new bio pumps have Viton, a synthetic material that has proven compatible with biofuels and appears to have minimized pump failures.

I’ve been advised by some of the chemical companies that fuel oil stabilizers can help to extend the shelf life of the fuel. Today, as many of you know, fuel oil additives come with many chemical configurations, and I cannot recommend anything other than to suggest looking at the specification to see if it is compatible with biofuel.

I was recently introduced to a new biodiesel oil pump retrofit kit that has a special biofuel oil pump with a special label rated for use with up to B20. The kit is designed to help remove copper, brass and other metals that are in constant contact with the fuel. These pumps feature stainless steel components and will not negatively interact with the biofuels.

In the area of accessories, I recently spoke with a service manager, who stated he will be installing the new biofuel oil pumps in place of the standard units along with the bio-rated Tigerloop, a deaerator. In closing, I have heard there are some who have contemplated blending their own fuel. My suggestion: Leave that to expert companies that can produce and back up the quality and remove any potential liabilities.—Charles Bursey, Sr.

Charles Bursey, Sr., is a columnist for Fuel Oil News.

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