The truck pulls into the terminal. The driver walks up to the “ATM-like device” at the rack, inserts a card, keys in a unique PIN, selects a “recipe,” and watches as the automated injection blending process works its magic. When loading is complete, the driver disconnects the pumps and proceeds to route, the tanker in tow now filled with precisely blended ASTM-compliant heating oil and RFS2-compliant biodiesel.
“It’s the answer to the infrastructure issue, it eliminates the burdens of splash blending, and it’s an example of how with the proper system in place, a ready and reliable Bioheat® fuel supply is possible,” says Tim Keaveney, vice president of sales for HERO BX, a biodiesel producer/wholesaler with locations in Erie, PA, North Hampton, NH, and Moundville, AL, and an annual production capacity of up to 75 million gallons.
Keaveney is speaking directly about the Top Tech System MultiLoad II — the “ATM-like device” located at HERO BX’s North Hampton blending terminal. Indirectly, however, he could also be speaking of the terminal itself, a modernized facility capable of storing up to 5,000 barrels of temperature-controlled biodiesel and heating oil.
And in still broader terms, he just might be referring to the much larger, but equally streamlined, process by which HERO BX, now in its 10th year of business, produces, transports, stores and blends biodiesel for use by heating oil suppliers and their customers.
“We run the Top Tech System with TMS 6000 software, resulting in a powerful hardware/software package designed to make the loading process easy and Bioheat blends precise,” says Keaveney. “It’s everything the industry didn’t have a decade ago.”
Ten years back, splash blending was common practice among Bioheat fuel’s early adopters. Drivers would pull up to a tank, pump in biodiesel, disconnect, and then drive up to another tank, often at another plant, to pump in heating oil. Although the blending process was simple enough, the resulting blend ratio was anything but accurate. Thus, splash blenders sometimes had trouble managing regulatory compliance and cashing in on available clean-energy incentives, like the biodiesel blenders’ tax credit.
The injection blending system employed at HERO BX’s North Hampton terminal differs from splash blending in that the two components of Bioheat — heating oil and biodiesel — are now blended in precise, pre-determined ratios right at the rack.
“With the automation system, blending occurs at the terminal, enabling HERO BX to separate Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), removing that burden from the fuel oil dealer while also eliminating administrative costs and compliance headaches,” says Keaveney.
“Although the system has the capability to offer blends from B1 to B99, HERO BX offers pre-programmed ‘recipes’ of B2, B10, B15 and B20 for clients wishing to adhere to the ASTM D396 specification for heating oil.” For a dealer or wholesaler who wishes to blend in-house, the terminal also offers B50 and B80 blends.
As for the biodiesel that goes into these recipes, Keaveney says, “HERO BX takes great pride in the quality and integrity of its products.” In addition to being a National Biodiesel Board certified BQ 9000® Producer, the company participates in the EPA’s voluntary Quality Assurance Plan (QAP). “This practice serves as a guarantee that our clients are receiving ‘gold standard’ RINs that meet all EPA compliance regulations,” Keaveney adds.
And when it comes to actually accessing the injection blending system and keying in the recipe, Keaveney emphasizes that the process really is as easy as withdrawing money from an ATM. “Each time we sign up a client, we offer a one-hour training program, but it typically doesn’t take an hour,” he states. “Drivers from all levels of experience have used it, and as soon as they’ve done it once, they’re trained.”
On November 2, the HERO BX North Hampton facility celebrated its one-year anniversary, with an open-house appreciation event. In attendance were Keaveney, company founder Pat Black, members of the local community, and press, as well as representatives from the region’s first two HERO BX Branded Bioheat® partners: D.F. Richard Energy (DFRE), of Dover, NH, and Estes Oil & Propane, of York, ME.
DFRE tankers hit the streets last heating season with daily deliveries to over 14,000 customers across three counties. The company began offering a low biodiesel blend to their customer base when the terminal came online. After an initial trial period in which end users reported no related service issues, DFRE began making higher blends available and ultimately delivered B20 to customers who chose the blended option.
Rick Card, CEO of D.F. Richard Energy, expressed excitement about the program’s success: “HERO BX has been way out in front of the Bioheat initiative, and with the terminal and our partnership, we provide a high-quality, domestically produced product to our customers. We are already on track to surpass last season.”
Knowing that New Englanders have demonstrated growing demand for biodiesel-blended heating oil, Mike Estes, owner of Estes Oil & Propane, decided to start off last winter with a B15 blend from the HERO BX terminal in North Hampton. “We wanted to give our customers a cleaner burning fuel option — they believe climate change is real,” he said. “We know, and they know, that putting as much blended fuel into our products and into their tanks is a win across the board.”
Building on these and other success stories, HERO BX is attracting additional likeminded dealers to the program. “North Hampton, New Hampshire borders Massachusetts to the south and is located just 15 miles from the southern Maine border, so we are seeing interest from all three states,” says Keaveney.
“Geography naturally has an impact, but there are no true borders with the program. We even have one Bioheat client in Handcock County, Maine, over 200 miles away.” It’s an extreme example, to be sure, but one that illustrates the lengths to which a dedicated seller will go to protect market share and satisfy consumer demand for a reliable supply of quality product.
Along with full access to HERO BX’s injection blending terminal, the Branded Bioheat® Program offers co-op advertising opportunities, regulatory compliance support and more. “It’s for that dealer who wants to tell a new and different story about Oilheat,” says Keaveney. “That’s who we’re signing up, the forward-thinking, full-service dealer, maybe in a third-generation business — they are dedicated to the future.”