The need and desire for cleaner, greener heating solutions is greater today than it's ever been before. With concerns about global warming and the impact of the heating industry on the ride, consumers and commercial representatives alike are in need of new alternatives that are more environmentally conscious. Luckily, there is a solution on the horizon of the heating market in the form of two innovative new fuels: biodiesel and renewable diesel. These fuels, when used in heating applications, are formulated to be friendlier to the environment than traditional fuel types.
The new green fuels that are just starting to emerge in the heating industry provide an opportunity for consumers to make a positive impact on the environment. In this post, we'll explain the benefits of heating with today's green fuels and how making the switch will ultimately make an impact on the future.
Benefits of Green Heating Fuels
The main driving force behind the development of today's green heating fuels is a growing concern about global warming. Global warming is caused in large part by the release of greenhouse gases like CO2 into the atmosphere. Hydrocarbon heating fuels like natural gas, propane, and oil produce CO2 as a byproduct when used in heating, which has been identified by the scientific community as a contributing factor to global warming.
In response, the concept of renewable fuel sources has continued to develop, and these fuels are growing more prominent in the heating market. These fuels come from plant (and animal) stocks which use CO2. This renewable trade-off is based on the idea that during a plant's lifetime, the CO2 it absorbs is saved from escaping into the atmosphere, as the plant releases oxygen instead.
The factors that make these innovative fuels "green" are the source of the materials they're derived from and the emissions they give off. When the greenhouse gas content between these two factors are weighed against each other, the net emissions released by green fuels are significantly less than that of more traditional heating fuel types. There are two major types of green fuels available today: biodiesel and renewable diesel.
- Biodiesel is refined from plant- and animal-based waste products which do not take from food stocks. These materials include waste oils created when processing soybeans, vegetables, animal fats, and other greases. Through a process called transesterification, those wastes are refined into a product that can be burned as fuel oil/diesel. To ensure reliability, green biodiesel is then mixed with a percentage of regular diesel or #2 fuel oil. These mixtures are identified by the percentage of biodiesel, with the most common mix at B5 (5% biodiesel). However, more and more, we see companies moving toward mixes as high as B20. The higher the percentage of biodiesel in the mix, the fewer emissions the fuel will create, lowering the fuel's overall greenhouse gas warming potential (GWP). A huge benefit of heating with biodiesel is that because it is blended with traditional diesel fuel, it can be used with existing heating equipment with minimal changes or updates of any kind. Finally, every percent of biodiesel provides renewable energy credits (RECs) as recognized by the EPA.
- Renewable diesel, on the other hand, is similar to biodiesel, but the two are not the same. While renewable diesel comes from the same material base, it is produced using different processes. Renewable diesel delivers a product that mirrors existing fuel products in handling, eliminating concerns about temperature and storage that affect the use of biodiesel. Renewable diesel performs well in below-freezing temperatures and doesn't require a special storage tank or modifications to an existing tank. Therefore, industry manufacturers are working toward creating much higher percentage blends -- up to R100 -- using renewable diesel. These would equate to 100 RECs, making the product much cleaner than natural gas or propane in terms of emissions and reduces the overall carbon footprint of the heating system significantly.
The Impact of Green Heating Innovations
In sum, the impact of heating with these emerging green fuels is a huge step forward for the heating industry. While these fuels are still in the early stages of penetrating the heating market, renewable diesel in particular is currently being used to great effect in transportation on the West Coast. As they become more common in the heating industry, green fuels will allow customers to help the environment while also heating their spaces comfortably. In the current outlook, green fuels are projected to be just as reliable as other competitive fuels that are much less friendly toward the environment.