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Porters, Handymen, and Doorman, or PHD's Blog
 
  Heating With BioFuel  
 

 

 
     
 

Heating New York City Apartment Buildings with Biofuel

Cornell University Cooperative Extension, working with NYC Technical College and Brookhaven National Lab is engaged in demonstrating the use of B20, or #2 heating oil with a 20% blend of plant product (soybean oil) to heat apartment buildings this season (Fall '05 through Spring '06). B20, has already been successfully used for several heating seasons in 100+ homes in Newburgh, NY with positive results and reduced maintenance calls by the dealer’s repair and service crews. Many fleets (UPS, DHL, US General Services Admin (GSA) also use B20 in their vehicles- in 2003, Harvard University changed its entire diesel fleet to B20 fuel.

Advantages of B20 use include: [1] cleaner operation with no conversions (changes in burners or equipment), leading to reduced maintenance; [2] reduction in pollution, incl. particulates, sulphur and other indicators; [3] use of domestically grown fuel inputs in place of imported oil. There is real potential for a home-grown Northeast industry, linking Hudson Valley growers as well as the use of waste vegetable oil (WVO) generated from area restaurants and food processors: a Cornell study during the Summer of 2005 found between 1.65 and 1.8 million gallons of waste oil generated just in Brooklyn by restaurants! Soybeans used by area dealers are coming from as far away as Brazil and the American Midwest, and as close as Virginia and North Carolina, with Dutchess County producers will be planting trial crops during 2006.

We’re presently seeking 3 or 4 apartment buildings for the pilot phase. Interested building owners, managers and coop boards can contact either Dick Koral of the Superintendents Technical Association, 718-552-1161 (rkoral@citytech.cuny.edu) or John Nettleton at Cornell at 212-340-2937 (email jsn10@cornell.edu). Each building will establish its own account with those NYC and area fuel dealers handling B20 biofuel. We will do site visits prior to beginning use of B20, with technical aspects overseen by Dr. C.R. Krishna of Brookhaven National Laboratory, who has extensive experience and has run a successful biofuel demonstration with the National Park Service at President ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill home in Oyster Bay, Long Island for several years.    

Some technical notes on Biodiesel

  • Biodiesel is renewable fuel made from virgin vegetable oil (mostly soy oil in the US, but rapeseed (canola), mustard seed and flaxseed are used as well and from recycled oil, animal fats etc.

    • B 100 designates the neat biodiesel

    • BX designates X% biodiesel in diesel, heating oil etc, so B20 is a 20% blend: heating oil blends are sometimes called ‘bioheat’ or ‘biofuel’

  • Biodiesel has properties more or less similar to diesel

    • Biodiesel has an ASTM specification D 6751

    • Biodiesel has almost no sulfur

    • Biodiesel has ‘poorer’ cold flow features than petrol diesel- it can ‘gel’ at higher temps than diesel or heating oil, so storing B100 requires care

  • Biodiesel blends have been tested in residential and small commercial boilers

    • Brookhaven (BNL) and others have proven that B20 can be burned in residential equipments with no changes to equipment or tuning of system

      • Abbott and Mills in Newburgh, NY has tested for 3 years in about a 100 homes with no adverse reports (See Ralph Mills presentation at http://intranet.bnl.gov/video/colloquia.asp, click on Biodiesel workshop

      • Results show that NOx levels are lower as well with Biodiesel blends, and lower sulfur levels should make for longer intervals between maintenance

  • Buying biodiesel

    • Buy from reputable dealers (Check NBB.org) made to ASTM specifications

    • Ensure cloud point and pour point values are acceptable from storage, transport points of view

  • Operation with Biodiesel blends (B2 to B20)

    • Inform service providers about switching

    • Identify equipment (tanks, boilers/furnaces, piping etc.)

as using biodiesel blend

    • Maintain log of operation and note any fuel related deviations

    • Inspect tanks, pumps, filters, gaskets etc at increased frequency to detect any potential for leaks

For additional information, go to the website(s) for the National Biodiesel Board (www.nbb.org), or contact John Nettleton or Dick Koral at the addresses cited above.