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August 19, 2013 How Connecticut Works: Gasoline Prices

Bioheat: CT's only petroleum product

Photo | Contributed Peter Aziz, president of Bantam Home & Energy, said bioheat eventually will be a much cleaner fuel than natural gas.

All of the petroleum products used in Connecticut are produced and refined outside the state, with one exception — bioheat.

Bioheat is a mixture of fuel oil made from petroleum, biodiesel and organic products, such as soy beans, waste grease, and animal fat. Connecticut has the capacity to produce 3 million gallons of biodiesel annually, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“The future is bioheat,” said Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association. “You are going to see the growth of the use of blended biofuels.”

Connecticut is one of the few remaining states in the nation whose primary fuel for heating is oil. Fuel oil makes up 46 percent of heating fuels in Connecticut, compared to the national average of 7 percent, according to EIA.

That soon might change as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy launches a $7 billion plan to convert 300,000 customers to natural gas home heating, making that the fuel of choice in Connecticut. Malloy's main reasoning is natural gas cost about half as much, and emits roughly 30 percent fewer greenhouse gases, than fuel oil.

However, when that fuel oil is blended with biodiesel, the greenhouse gas emissions decrease. Plus, bioheat costs the same as unmixed fuel oil.

“Down the road, that is going to help us fight the notion that heating oil is dirty and natural gas is clean,” said Peter Aziz, president of fuel oil delivery firm Bantam Home & Energy. “It is an American-made renewable product.”

Bioheat can be purchased premixed from the fuel oil storage sites in New Haven, or individual businesses can mix it themselves, like Bantam, said Aziz.

Using bioheat hasn't always been a good option. The early versions of biodiesel didn't burn as well in boilers as unmixed fuel oil. Those problems have been fixed, Aziz said, and the standards setter ASTM International allows firms to sell a 5 percent blend bioheat and still call it fuel oil.

Bantam first used a 2.5 percent blend when it started selling bioheat in 2006 but then increased the blend to 5 percent when ASTM said it was just as good as unmixed fuel oil.

“We've never looked back. We've never had a problem,” Aziz said. “It is the exact same cost to us as if we did 100 percent heating oil.”

The company could blend in more biodiesel to create 20 percent, or even 50 percent bioheat, Aziz said. However, sometimes the higher concentrations have difficulty in colder weather.

Once those problems get resolved, Bantam will increase its mix, Aziz said. The magic number is 12 percent, where bioheat will have the same greenhouse gas emissions as natural gas.

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