By Rhonda Gerson
The National Oilheat Research Alliance, in partnership with the Oil Heat Comfort Corp. and the New York Oil Heating Association, recently opened the new Research and Education Center in Plainview, NY. Dr. Thomas Butcher, who has performed much of the Oilheat research at Brookhaven National Laboratory, will be working directly for NORA and leading the lab.
“From an industry perspective, the Center fits into the goal of managing ourselves and being self-sufficient,” said NORA President John Huber. “We’re not relying on the Department of Energy or other sources. We’re controlling our future, which is key for the industry.”
According to Huber, much of the research will focus on expanding biofuel use and exploring the effect of biofuels on equipment in the short and long terms. The test equipment will also be used to respond to fuel problems: researching and analyzing issues as they arise to provide industry solutions more quickly.
“One of the things we’re doing right off the bat is we’re going to be testing product inside about 250 oil tanks, looking for potential issues – water, algae, bacteria – that might potentially impact the storage tanks,” OHCC CEO Kevin Rooney explained. “Tom [Butcher] is then going to be able to look at and analyze what effect they’d also have on the fuel. It’s a nice marriage of what we’re doing as an industry with new fuels, and what Tom’s doing with a longer-term look at all the issues that affect our fuel. Tom’s a world class scientist, and having him available to us on a regular basis is just the cherry on top of the cake.”
Spacious and Well Equipped
The 3,500 square foot facility will have a classroom that will accommodate up to 20 students, a working lab, work space for Dr. Butcher, three offices and a board room, all appointed with new computers and other equipment. The new Center will host industry training and consumer education programs, which had previously been scheduled at colleges or in rented rooms at hotels or other local facilities.
“The synergy of having Dr. Butcher working there, working with the educators, will keep the educators engaged in what’s going on at the technical end, and keep Dr. Butcher grounded on what’s going on out in the field,” Huber added.
Plans are already underway for Silver Certification programs in the spring, and a variety of training programs will be offered. “We need to make sure the people we’re sending into customers’ homes have the skill levels where they need to be,” said Rocco Lacertosa, president of NYOHA. “We’re putting out a survey to dealers to see what courses they’d be interested in. We did a program last year, and about 100 people went through it for their NORA Silver Certification. I think we can repeat that a couple of times over at the new facility.”
Huber is also excited at the prospect of the training to be offered. “Having our own facility, with new entrants to the industry being trained at a modern facility, will impress them that we’re going to be around for a long time. It will make a good first impression with many of these new employees, which will be good for employers.”
The Research and Education Center will also be opened up for additional programs, such as NORA-funded consumer service training and driver and company hazmat programs offered by NYOHA, OHCC and others. “We can put together a calendar of who’s using the facility when, and what’s available, and use the Center for events that in the past, we’d have to rent hotel rooms,” Rooney said. “There are lots of possibilities, because it’s ours, and we control it. It’s pretty exciting stuff.”
The Center’s partners – NORA, OHCC and NYOHA – have already been in touch with many of the major equipment manufacturers to hold training programs at the center as well, which will also generate additional revenue for NORA. “We expect manufacturers doing training on [Long] Island to be using the facility, rather than renting a room at a Holiday Inn or other hotel,” Huber said. “It would improve their training – they can set up in a place that has equipment and where they can do demonstrations. We’ll have the test equipment. When they’re doing the training, it will be more live and engaging for the students, because they can look, feel and touch the equipment,” he continued.
The new facility, at 131 East Ames Court in Plainview, is located directly off the service road of the Long Island Expressway and easily accessible for visitors coming from New York City and Long Island.