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New Jersey Joins Low-Sulfur Heating Oil Club

September 1, 2010

New Jersey enacted low-sulfur heating oil mandates on Tuesday, becoming the fourth Northeastern state to require cleaner-burning heating oil. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which began considering the new rules in January, announced their official adoption with a statement from DEP commissioner Bob Martin, reported.

Martin said that the rules will make New Jersey “a much healthier place to live,” by establishing a “strict but reasonable time frame to allow industry to be able to install new equipment and prepare to meet these standards.” The rules require heating oil to contain no more than 500 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur by July 2012 and 15 ppm by July 2014. Current regulations allow sulfur content of up to 2,000 ppm. The rules will apply not only to heating oil sold to residential customers, but also to refineries that make heating oil for sales in other states, helping to spread cleaner-burning heating oil throughout the region. The new regulations will also help the state comply with federal clean air requirements that it has violated.

According to government analysis, the regulations could drive up the price of heating oil by up to nine cents per gallon, but those cost increases will be offset in the long run by savings on cleaning and maintenance of oil-fired heating systems. Low-sulfur fuel burns more efficiently and places less strain on boilers and furnaces. Like its counterparts in Maine, Connecticut, and New York, the New Jersey heating oil industry supported the low-sulfur mandates early on and was involved in crafting the specific rules and implementation time frame. Scott Ross, associate director of the New Jersey Petroleum Council representative told,

It’s a reasonable time frame to meet the demand needs. We participated in the rule-making process, which began with the last administration, and we’re fairly happy with the outcome.

According to the DEP, low-sulfur requirements will make heating oil emissions equivalent to those generated by burning natural gas. Reduced sulfur emissions will also save the state millions in medical costs by decreasing the need to treat asthma and other respiratory problems caused by low air quality.

New Jersey’s move to clean up heating oil emissions is just the latest sign of the times for the heating oil industry: a cleaner, greener fuel is required to secure heating oil’s status as a staple heating fuel in the Northeast. Lower-sulfur heating oil and biodiesel heating oil (commonly known as Bioheat) have obvious health and environmental benefits, and have been proven to improve the efficiency of most heating systems. Although not all Northeastern states have required cleaner heating oil yet, the industry is ready and eager to evolve to remain an important energy source in the greener world of the future.

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