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At little or no extra cost, cleaner home heating oil awaits

Albany, NY, April 22, 2012 By James Walsh
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM - 04/22/12

A lower-sulfur, cleaner-burning home heating oil flows into the New York state market in July amid expectations of minimal, if any, price increases from the heating industry.

"We haven't gotten any indications that there will be an increase, and if there is, it will be insignificant," Ron Mustello, president of the Hudson Valley Oil Heat Council, said of prices for the new oil. "But it will be a great benefit to the consumer and to the environment."

The oil will have a sulfur content of 15 parts per million, compared to levels between 1,000 and 1,500 parts per million that are common in the Hudson Valley and downstate, said Kevin Rooney, a spokesman for the Oil Heat Institute of Long Island. The level can be as high as 2,000 to 2,500 in some places upstate.

Rooney said there might be a price increase of about 4 cents per gallon, but he expected that to be more than offset by an increased efficiency achieved by the cleaner-burning fuel.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which aims to promote energy conservation and environmental protection, could not offer a projection because it does not speculate on the cost of fuel, spokeswoman Kate Muller said.

Customers may realize some savings, because as the amount of sulfur in heating oil decreases, the rate of residue buildup and the need for vacuum-cleaning equipment also decreases, tests by NYSERDA, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Canadian Energy Technology Center showed. Lowering the sulfur content also was found to increase the efficiency of boilers.

Independent oil companies and trade associations lobbied Albany lawmakers for the change, as did health advocacy groups including the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association. The legislation was signed into law in July 2010. New York state is the largest consumer of heating oil in the United States, Rooney said, consuming 20 percent of the national volume.

The two-year lag between the signing of the law and its enactment gave oil refineries time to expand their sulfur extraction efforts. They were already providing that additional refining process to supply the trucking industry with equally low-sulfur diesel fuel, a requirement that went into effect nationwide 2 years ago.

Both fuels are interchangeable, but the diesel motor fuel requires the additive cetane, a liquid hydrocarbon that ignites when compressed. The industry expects that the compatibility of the fuels will eventually reduce refining and storage costs.

In addition to the low-sulfur requirement, New York City has also mandated that heating oil contain at least 2 percent biofuels by Oct. 1. That's intended to reduce petroleum consumption.

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National Oilheat Research Alliance ECC is funded in part through the National Oilheat Research Alliance.