ASTM International, an organization which sets industry consensus standards for fuels and lubricants, has voted to approve performance specifications for blends of 6% to 20% biodiesel with traditional heating oil.
The move is a significant leap forward in the industry effort to boost the percentage of biodiesel that homeowners and building managers use in oilheat equipment common to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, according to the National Biodiesel Board.
The updated ASTM D396 Standard Specification for Fuel Oils, containing the new grade for blends of 6% to 20% biodiesel, will be finalized and published by ASTM for public use after the usual ASTM review and editing process. It is expected by February 2015.
The mixture of biodiesel and heating oil is marketed as Bioheat, a registered trademark.
"The fuel oil industry is reinventing itself as a 21st century fuel by moving to higher blends of low carbon biodiesel and near-zero sulfur levels across the board," said John Huber, president of the National Oilheat Research Alliance.
The Bioheat renaissance gives oilheat dealers, mostly small, family-owned businesses, the ability to provide their customers with a desirable new product, according to Huber.
"Bioheat gives consumers the choice to use a clean, domestically produced fuel without having to invest in an expensive natural gas system," said Paul Nazzaro, who leads the National Biodiesel Board's Bioheat outreach program. "Setting these performance specs for increased biodiesel levels is hugely significant, because it opens the door for innovation in the heating oil industry and will allow more consumers to enjoy the full benefits of this fuel in their homes and businesses."
Nazzaro added that environmentally speaking, a 20% blend of biodiesel puts Bioheat on par with natural gas, the biggest competitor to oilheat, while higher biodiesel levels up to 100% biodiesel could reduce the carbon footprint of Bioheat up to 80% compared to traditional fuel oil.
The passage of 5% biodiesel into the No. 1 and No. 2 grades of ASTM D396 occurred in 2008. During the last six years, the Bioheat Technical Steering Committee, comprised of industry technical experts and led by NORA and NBB, developed a tremendous amount of data that formed the basis for the ballot.
The vote to pass the ballot came last week at the semi-annual meeting of the ASTM Committee D02 on Petroleum Products.
"The technical data with this ballot for the new B6-B20 grade verified what we have known for years—B20 made with high quality biodiesel works well," said Seth Obetz, president of Pennsylvania-based Bioheat distributor Worley and Obetz.
"We have been marketing high quality B20 for 14 years and our customers see fewer problems with B20 than with conventional heating oil."
Wholesale fuel provider Amerigreen reported at the ASTM meeting that it has more than 100,000 B20 customers. The company said that number is growing because Bioheat customers see less maintenance than with conventional fuel oil.
The NBB and NORA have invested millions of dollars in Bioheat research, outreach and education through funding provided by oilheat dealers, biodiesel producers and the soybean checkoff program.