Not All Heating Oil is the Same…and Coming Changes

Most fuel oil customers do not know, but there is a difference in Heating Oil. At H.B. Steele & Son, we started a premium heating oil treatment program years ago to combat the coming changes to the heating oil specification. As I stated in my last column, Pennsylvania will be the last state in the Northeast to adopt an Ultra Low Sulfur Heating Oil Specification (ULSHO). Customers who have not been getting a Treated Heating Oil delivered to prepare their tank for the coming changes, will find themselves with various problems that may cost hundreds of dollars in service bills, if not the full replacement of a heating oil storage tank . This article is not meant to scare customers, but inform them on what potentially could take place. The fuel specification change will make systems much more efficient and much cleaner burning.

The remaining part of this article was contributed to the industry by Mark Smith of Advanced Oil Solutions and contributor to Oil & Energy Service Professionals.

High Sulfur Heating Oil has always been a naturally corrosive fuel that causes pitting of tanks, pipes and yellow metals. With oil tank fill and vent lines typically being piped to the outside, moisture laden air is allowed to flow freely thru the vent and can cause condensation on the inside of the tanks. Together with corrosion, moisture, and heavier sediment falling out of the oil solution, legacy sludge forms on the inside of the tank.

Heating Oil Conditioners, delivered thru Premium Heating Oil Treatment Programs, have done a great job of remediating oil tank issues by adding corrosion inhibitors, yellow metal deactivators, fuel stabilizers and dispersants to allow sediment and moisture to be passed thru the oil filter and strainer to be burned at the nozzle. Plus the added value results help cut down on service calls and extends the life of customers heating equipment.

What can we expect from the new Ultra Low Sulfur Heating Oil (ULSHO) when the change is made?

ULSHO is being refined by a process which removes troublesome sulfur. Some Dealers share the belief that ULSHO will resolve any and all fuel quality issues of the previous High Sulfur Heating Oil from the past. Nothing could be further from the truth. Refining ULSHO also removes other functional elements like oxygen and nitrogen which delivers a fuel less stable in storage and a fuel that is more paraffinic or waxy. Just because ULSHO is “cleaner” than traditional heating oil, it is not any less corrosive to tanks, pipes, and system components if left unprotected.

The supply, storage and distribution chain has not changed and most fuel contamination occurs in the supply chain. ULSHO can also be prone to increased levels of entrained water, more susceptible to water and microbial contamination. Like Biodiesel, ULSHO is more soluble, and liable to loosen filter-plugging deposits in tanks.

While ULSHO is certainly a cleaner burning, more efficient fuel, it is not a fix-all for every common fuel problem. Sound storage, transportation, and general housekeeping practices are a good start to treating ULSHO issues. But an additive treatment program will be an essential part of resolving legacy sludge, lubricity, moisture control, corrosion, stability and cold flow issues to keep your home comfort system running soundly