Bioheat® Rises at National Biodiesel Conference
Heating fuel stakeholders provide updates on policy, communications and more
The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) hosted its Virtual National Biodiesel Conference & Expo from January 18-21, 2021. On day three of the event, Wednesday, January 20, at 3:00 p.m., a breakout session called “Bioheat® Rises” was held featuring a panel of Northeast heating fuel industry stakeholders.
Presenters on the panel included Advanced Fuel Solutions President Paul Nazzaro, Cubby Oil & Energy President Charlie Uglietto, New York State Energy Coalition (NYSEC) CEO Rocco Lacertosa and Massachusetts Energy Marketers Association (MEMA) President Michael Ferrante.
Nazzaro opened up the discussion by making a clear distinction between the businesses the panelists represent and the “big oil” companies with which many biofuel producers now find themselves in direct competition. “These are not the major oil companies we’re talking about,” Nazzaro said. “These are family businesses, about 3,000 of them throughout the region.” He added that like the agricultural community, heating fuel is a weather-dependent industry with high seasonal demand.
Before turning the screen over to his fellow panelists, Nazzaro recalled that NBB’s first session on Bioheat fuel was held in Palm Springs, Florida in 2004. “Hopefully, today you’ll see how far we’ve come since then, where we are now, and what we can do,” he said.
Charlie Uglietto was introduced as a past chairman of the National Oilheat Research Alliance and the current chair of NEFI’s Net-Zero Task Force, a group whose work he detailed during the presentation. Uglietto referred to the adoption of the Providence Resolution as a “watershed moment” for liquid heating fuel and discussed how the industry has been able to begin implementing its emission reduction goals thanks in part to the work of the Net-Zero Task Force.
Uglietto pointed specifically to burner manufacturers intensifying their transition to renewable fuels and to wholesalers like Global, Sprague, Irving and Gulf bringing more biodiesel products into their Northeast terminals. “Retailers have started asking what they need to do to implement higher blends,” Uglietto said.
NYSEC’s Rocco Lacertosa noted that New York State has approximately 1.5 million oil-heated homes and a 1-billion-gallon annual market for blended Bioheat fuel. While the downstate region already has laws in effect requiring a minimum B5 blend in New York City, Westchester County and Long Island, Lacertosa said a bill calling for statewide B5 by 2022, B10 by 2025 and B20 by 2030 is also under consideration. “Many of my dealers are using much higher blends, as high as B35,” he added.
Lacertosa also discussed the recent rollout of the “I’m a Net-Zero Heroô” campaign, which he described as “a very comprehensive program” launched to educate New York consumers about the benefits of Bioheat fuel and the industry’s efforts to reduce emissions using this lower-carbon product.
MEMA’s Michael Ferrante said that while heating oil has been targeted for elimination in Massachusetts, the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (APS) program has been a “runaway success” for Bioheat fuel distributors. To date, 78 heating oil retailers are involved in the program as are five NBB producer-members who have been supplying feedstock. Ferrante showed that in just the first six months of 2020, liquid biofuels sold under the APS program have reduced emissions by over 287 million pounds compared with unblended heating oil.
Ferrante also discussed MEMA’s involvement in the “One Industry – One Choice” campaign, which has been launched in Massachusetts, as well as Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island, to help educate heating fuel dealers in these states about the benefits of Bioheat and to support retailers in making the transition.
The presentation was followed by a lively Q&A during which one attendee asked, “When this finally takes off, do you have enough product available or could you use some high-quality fuel from the Midwest?”
Reiterating that the Northeast heating fuel industry needs 800 million gallons of biodiesel per year to achieve region-wide B20, Nazzaro joked, “We could use high-quality product from Mars, Jupiter, Pluto, it doesn’t matter!” He added that biodiesel comes to the Northeast from all over the world, but that Midwest distributors’ commitments will help encourage more domestic producers to get on board as well.
“I am extremely confident that if we create demand, biodiesel producers will supply product,” Uglietto added. “The key is it has to be feedstock agnostic. We need all of the above if we’re going to make the step forward.”