Beware of Misinformation on Ultra-Low Sulfur Heating Oil

By Paul Nazzaro, Advanced Fuel Solutions, Inc.

There’s an alarming amount of misinformation out there regarding ultra-low sulfur heating oil (ULSHO). With several state mandates taking effect over the coming years, it’s paramount that fuel dealers know the facts about our soon-to-be industry standard product.

I’ve heard several heating oil dealers express the belief that ULSHO will resolve any and all fuel quality issues, rendering their premium heating oil programs obsolete. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While ULSHO is certainly a cleaner burning, more efficient fuel—especially when blended with biodiesel—it is not a fix-all for every common fuel problem, nor does it come without its own set of operability concerns.

The first thing to remember is that while the physical properties of the fuel may be changing, the supply, storage, and distribution chain down which it travels—where most fuel contamination occurs—remains the same. In fact, because sulfur acts as a natural lubricant, ULSHO is “dryer” than traditional heating oil, meaning that it is lower in lubricity, and, like biodiesel, more prone to holding entrained water, and more susceptible to water and microbial contamination.

The refining process used to remove sulfur also removes oxygen, nitrogen, and other functional elements, yielding a fuel that is more paraffinic, or waxy, to the detriment of its cold flow operability, and less stable in storage. ULSHO is also more solvent, or liable to loosen filter-plugging deposits in tanks. Lastly, just because ULSHO is “cleaner” than traditional heating oil, does not make it any less corrosive to tanks, pipes, and system components if left untreated.  (In fact, it appears to accelerate corrosion.) Sound storage, transportation, and general housekeeping practices—as well as additive treatment for lubricity, moisture control, cold flow performance, stability, and corrosion—are as essential as ever with ULSHO.

It’s an exciting time for the heating oil industry. With the emergence of ULSHO and higher ASTM-approved blends of Bioheat® (B6-B20), our industry has a compelling story to share with consumers. We can now offer a safer, cleaner, more efficient and more renewable alternative to natural gas. It’s up to each and every dealer to ensure that it’s more dependable.
For more information on fuel quality maintenance, advanced additive solutions, or general housekeeping practices, contact Paul Nazzaro at 978-258-8360 x301 or paulsr@yourfuelsolution.com.

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