Three Days with NORA

The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA), fresh off the heels of its 10-year reauthorization (see story in Oil & Energy, Volume 21/Issue 1, January/February 2019), hosted three days of technology-focused education, policy review and technical workshops from April 2-4 at the NORA Liquid Fuels Research Center in Plainview, NY, and the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in Melville, NY.

The sessions kicked off April 2 with a Women in Energy (WE) Special Event co-sponsored by the Oil Heat Institute of Long Island (OHILI) and the New York Oil Heating Association (NYOHA). Female and male supporters and members of the Women in Energy group were treated to a guided tour of the 3,500-squre foot NORA Liquid Fuels Research Center with Laboratory Director Dr. Tom Butcher and Laboratory Technician Neehad Islam. The two scientists showcased several next-generation heating systems currently in development at the facility, including burners capable of running on up to B100 biofuel as well as several state-of-the-art boiler prototypes. After the tour, attendees enjoyed a networking session with complimentary food and beverages. Befitting NORA’s emphasis on education and advancement, all proceeds WE raised from the $59 registration fee went to support the Women in Energy Mentorship Program.

On April 3-4, NORA held its Technical Review & Research Planning Workshop at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel. Over 30 leaders of the heating oil, heating equipment, and biofuel industries gathered for this annual workshop, at which NORA presented findings from its latest fuel and technology research, and tasked attendees with helping to set the organization’s research agenda for the coming year. The state association leaders in attendance were NYOHA CEO Rocco Lacertosa, OHILI CEO Joe Vassallo, Empire State Energy Association Executive Vice President and Upstate New York Energy Association Executive Secretary Kris DeLair, Massachusetts Energy Marketers Association President Michael Ferrante, Connecticut Energy Marketers Association President Christian Herb, Oil Heat Institute of Rhode Island Executive Director Roberta Fagan, Vermont Fuel Dealers Association Executive Director Matt Cota, and the Virginia Petroleum & Convenience Marketers Association’s NORA Programs Coordinator Rob Bailey.

The two-day event began at 2 p.m. on April 3, with a general discussion about the current state of the industry, the challenges of so-called “beneficial electrification,” and the efforts of many Northeast states to convert heating oil homes to electric heat pumps. Dr. Tom Butcher assessed some of the advancements that have been made, as well as shortfalls that still exist with biofuel-blended heating oil and heat pump technology. Neehad Islam covered heat pump water heaters. Issues surrounding grid reliability were also discussed. After the technical portion of the day’s programming concluded, several state heating oil association leaders presented on relevant policy initiatives, and the day ended with a tour of the Liquid Fuels Research Center during which attendees witnessed a live B100 burn.

Day 2 of the NORA Technical Review & Research Planning Workshop was an all-day affair, lasting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Following a brief recap of the previous day’s discussions, NORA’s industry partners presented research covering virtually the full gamut of liquid fuel and heating equipment technology. Presentations were given on oil-fired heat pumps, biofuel infrastructure, the energy capacity of oil tanks and electric battery storage, ethyl levulinate, B100 burners, the new AFUE2 efficiency standard for warm air furnaces, and much more (see them all at noraweb.org/technical-planning-workshop-2019/). Once the final presentation of the day concluded, attendees broke off into groups to discuss the issues of the day and begin prioritizing NORA’s research agenda moving forward. Votes were held both at the event and online, and the results are included in the panel below.

Reflecting on the industry’s possible next moves, NORA President John Huber said, “The challenges we are confronting to compete in a low carbon future are real and growing, however, we do have a strong pathway to the future. That pathway will require commitment and the industry to overcome substantial, but not insurmountable obstacles.”


NORA Research Agenda

Workshop participants were asked to rank agenda items in order of importance. The resulting top six NORA priorities were as follows.

  • Ability to go to 100% biofuel (LCLF*)
  • Develop Biofuel Roadmap with timelines and matrix of current status by blends
  • Continue fuel quality research and solutions
  • Recommended practices guide for biofuel blends
  • Outdoor biofuel storage operability study
  • Better communicate oilheating advances (ULSHO**, biodiesel, etc.)

*Low Carbon Liquid Fuels: combination of zero-carbon biofuels (biodiesel, renewable diesel, etc.) blended with petroleum oil or used in full concentration
**Ultra-Low Sulfur Heating Oil

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