Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Jersey orders lower sulfur in home heating oil

home heating oil delivery

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) yesterday adopted rules requiring significant reductions in sulfur content for home heating oil and other types of fuel oil used in the state.

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said the adoption was "an important step toward improving air quality and protecting public health in New Jersey."

Industry gets time to adapt

In a news release announcing the adoption, the DEP took pains to stress that the new regulations "give refiners and distributors ample time to make preparations for the tougher standards and prevent potential price spikes for consumers." 
By providing almost 6 years to phase in the 15 parts per million sulfur limit, New Jersey is ensuring the refining industry has enough time to make the needed changes without causing disruption in the fuel supply or spikes in prices, the DEP said.

The new maximum sulfur content standard of 500 parts per million for home heating oil and lighter grade fuel oil will take effect on July 1, 2014, and a second phase of more stringent standards to reduce sulfur to 15 parts per million will take effect on July 1, 2016. That is down from current maximums of 2,000 to 3,000 parts per million.

In moving to adopt tougher sulfur standards, New Jersey joins an effort undertaken by many other Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states in a regional strategy to reduce air pollution, Martin said. New York, Connecticut and Maine recently passed legislation mandating a 15 parts per million home heating oil standards, while Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, Delaware, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia also are considering sulfur reductions.

Sulfur dioxide, which is formed from burning fuel containing sulfur, plays a major role in fine particulate formation, acid rain and reduced visibility. Regional strategies to reduce these emissions are important because air pollution is carried across state borders by the wind, Martin noted.

The new rules will affect refineries, fuel oil storage facilities, fuel oil distributors and fuel oil users, including commercial, industrial and residential users. The rules, however, will not apply to on- and -off-road diesel fuel, which is regulated by the federal government.

Home heating oil will be as clean as natural gas

Under New Jersey's new rules, home heating oil must be as clean as ultra low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD) currently available for diesel vehicles. This also will make home heating oil as clean as natural gas and enable the use of high efficiency condensing furnaces, which can significantly reduce oil use by about 10 percent, saving money for persons who buy such furnaces, according to the DEP.

The cleaner fuel also is expected to result in less frequent cleaning and maintenance on oil furnaces, saving money for all users of heating oil. Over time these savings will more than offset the potential increased cost to produce the lower sulfur heating oil, which is expected to be less than 9 cents per gallon, according to the DEP.

The amended sulfur rules will be published in the New Jersey Register on Sept. 20.

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