By John MacKenna
A New Hampshire startup has bold ambitions to revolutionize the heating industry with a new oil burner that is said to reduce fuel consumption while cutting carbon dioxide emissions and virtually eliminating smoke and soot.
Eco-Burners LLC recently introduced the Green Dragon burner, which is the product of more than 10 years of research and development by two inventive brothers from New Hampshire.
Company Principal Bill Shaheen believes the Green Dragon is a critical piece of new technology for the heating oil industry. “The concept of using oil with no carbon monoxide and less carbon dioxide is a timely one,” he said. “We’ve got a business that could make a huge impact on the environment. Oil companies have been seen as the bad guys because of the carbon dioxide emissions. The Green Dragon makes them the good guys. It gives them a future.”
The burner uses proprietary, patent-pending technology to achieve a thorough burn of heating oil (and other liquid fuels) that produces a high-temperature flame that derives more BTUs from every gallon of fuel to improve heating efficiency by 20 percent to 35 percent, according to Shaheen. Emissions contain less carbon dioxide, and there is virtually no fouling of heat exchangers, he noted.
Eco-Burners recently achieved ETL listing by Intertek for the Green Dragon, which means it is approved for use in residential applications. The company has installed 32 burners and is ramping up production to make the burners available to heating companies. Installers must be certified on the Green Dragon, and Eco-Burners offers training sessions on Fridays at its facility in Barrington, NH.
The Green Dragon has a unique nozzle setup and blast tube that account for the thorough, high-temperature burn. The burner uses dual nozzles and a unique blast tube design to set and adjust the fuel/air mixture.
The burner can accommodate a variety of liquid fuels and blends, including high-sulfur heating oil, ultra low sulfur heating oil, biodiesel and even raw vegetable oil and waste cooking oil.
The Eco-Burners team is extremely encouraged by the results that the new burner is achieving, which have been reviewed by Alion Science & Technology, of Bath, Maine. In a recent report on the burner, Alion concluded, “The continued development of the Eco-Burner is exciting. We believe that carefully considered and engineered application of the Eco-Burner could set a new level of performance for heating oil in the 21st century.”
The flame temperature is typically 2400° to 2500° F, which Eco-Burners says is about 25 percent hotter than the flame of a standard oil burner. The hotter flame enables the burner to raise water temperatures more quickly so that the water in a boiler reaches its target temperature faster than with a standard burner. With shorter run times, the Green Dragon reduces fuel consumption by 20 to 35 percent, according to the Eco-Burners team.
The burner also changes the nature of the emissions by virtually eliminating carbon monoxide, smoke and soot and reducing the carbon dioxide that leaves the chimney.
When Oil & Energy visited the Eco-Burners facility recently, we were surprised to see a complete absence of sooty residue on the steel chimneys that have been in use for two years with Green Dragon burners and around a direct vent outlet on the outside of the building. Eco-Burners believes the Green Dragon is uniquely well suited for direct vent applications because of its clean emissions profile.
Eco-Burners is now pairing the burner with standard boilers from various manufacturers. The company believes that fuel efficiencies will be even greater in the future as boiler manufacturers design appliances to accommodate the Green Dragon’s hotter flame.
A Search for Cheaper Heat
The Green Dragon burner is the fruition of several years’ work by New Hampshire natives Gene and Henry Frenette. Builders by trade, the Frenette brothers are born tinkerers and inventors. Their father, Eugene Frenette, was an inventor who developed the Frenette friction furnace, which was designed to heat a home without flame or fuel.
Like their father, Henry and Eugene were interested in reducing the cost of space heating, which is an expensive necessity in the cold climate of northern New England. They began exploring space-heating technologies because it was expensive to heat their homes with oil, and they wanted to find something more economical, according to Gene, who is the younger of the two.
Their first project was to capture fumes from gasoline using a vacuum pump and burn them for heating. They worked on the project for two years in Henry’s garage, but it was getting a little too dangerous, according to Gene. Having survived that hazardous venture without serious mishap, they tried to make a mist from heating oil that would achieve a highly efficient burn. That eventually led to engineering a new oil burner nozzle, which put them on the path that eventually led to the Green Dragon burner.
Their work soon brought them together with Steve Page, a local heating and plumbing expert who became interested in their pursuit of higher-efficiency oil heating. Together they worked on new designs for nozzles and blast tubes that would reduce the size of the droplets in the nozzle spray and alter the fuel-air mixture.
Their collaboration produced an early prototype burner that achieved promising results but was drastically oversized. The second prototype was about three feet by three feet, and the current model is sized like a standard oil burner. A local machine shop makes the specialized parts, and the Eco-Burners team assembles the burners in the Barrington facility.
The current model burns without leaving any residue on the heat exchanger, which helps the boiler to maintain efficiency and eliminates the need for laborious cleaning to remove soot buildup, according to Gene Frenette.
Passion for Business
As the Frenettes honed the technology with the help of Page, they also made contact with Shaheen, who has a reputation for launching and building businesses. He has started more than 30 businesses and helped a lot of entrepreneurs chase their dreams.
“My first criteria is: Do I like the people?” Shaheen said. “I have to enjoy the people I’m doing business with. Then they have to have a good idea and something that will benefit mankind. Then it is a win-win situation.”
Shaheen said he declined to partner with the inventors when he first met with them around 2008, but when they met again in 2014, the timing was right. Shaheen was busy, however, with an election campaign for his wife Jeanne, who represents New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate, and he put the Frenettes in touch with his longtime business associate Marty Burby, who came on board as CEO.
Working together, the Frenettes and Burby created the Eco-Burners brand, put burners in 32 beta test sites, obtained the ETL listing, and readied themselves for marketing and installer training well in advance of the 2016-17 heating season.
Shaheen sees the Green Dragon as a critical invention for the heating oil industry. “If there is no solution for the carbon dioxide emissions, the oil industry is in real jeopardy,” he said. “Now we have the solution.”
The Green Dragon creates revenue opportunities for full-service heating oil companies and other installers, because customers will be motivated to upgrade to a burner that reduces fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions substantially, Shaheen said.
He believes the combination of environmental friendliness and efficient heating will change the face of heating oil. Not only will current heating oil users convert, but the burner will lead to a resurgence of heating oil in new construction and even inspire customers to convert from natural gas to heating oil. He also expects to take the Green Dragon overseas into lucrative markets such as India.
Interest among installers is already robust, Shaheen said, and Eco-Burners recently hosted teams of engineers from Turkey and Ireland interested in the technology.
Shaheen’s home is one of the test sites, and he has seen his fuel consumption drop by about 50 percent (albeit with a substantial reduction in degree-days from the harsh 2014-15 winter.)
It was Shaheen who coined the name “Green Dragon” for the burner. “It came to me in my sleep,” he said.
Eco-Burners is now selling the Green Dragon direct to installers and could develop wholesale and OEM relationships in the future, according to Shaheen. The company is now enrolling companies to install and service the Green