Heating oil quality......is it all the same?

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Old 02-05-17, 08:13 AM
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Heating oil quality......is it all the same?

Hi everyone,
I have a quick question related to the quality of heating oil being sold. Does anyone have any insight as to the differences between companies and the quality of oil they sell? Is heating oil all the same?
I live in NJ, so I assume all of the oil comes from the Port at Newark or Elizabeth. I purchase my heating oil as needed from two or three different COD oil companies. I really don't think I see any difference in any of the companies other than the price.
I have a coworker who also purchases his oil on a COD basis, and he claims to notice that oil from one company in particular seems to burn much faster. He further went on to say that the oil from a different company seemingly lasts much longer. I never thought much of it until a read an article that noted that some companies substitute different types of oil

"In this area last winter one of the oil peddlers was delivering heating oil...ultra-low sulphur heating oil. The other peddler was delivering Jet-A which he got cheaper but was selling at the going price. The ultra-low gave us some real fits for a couple of months...unstable, no lubrisity, wax sepration below zero, etc. while the Jet-A did what it always does...it just worked. 'Course the point can be made that the one dealer was doing right by the environment and the other was not.

Not all delivered products are created equal."


There is also this article...... Different Types of Home Heating Oil | R.F. Ohl Fuel


Should I be checking what quality my various COD dealers sell??


Thank you,
Zack
 
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  #2  
Old 02-06-17, 06:45 PM
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While there is a small variation in #2 fuel oil BTU's per gallon, i.e. 137,000 to 140,00 the key issue for home owners is water, sludge and other contaminants.

Some oil terminals sell bottom of the tank stuff with water/sludge and whatever to delivery companies at a reduced price. For the terminals it is a cheap way to avoid EPA disposal issues. For the oil delivery company its higher profit.

Here one local oil delivery company, K Oil sold contaminated oil to home owners. Subsequent fills would stir up the stuff, and if the burner was running, would suck it in and shut down.

The K Oil's solution was to put a switch next to the fill cap. During delivery the driver turned switch off. After K Oil filled a neighbors 550 gallon tank with sludge, he sold the neighbor a new 275 gallon tank. Then certified the 550 gallon tank was abandoned.

I buy oil COD once or twice a year. Dip stick with water detecting paste, before and after delivery. Also add some $10 oil treatment with each delivery. Have two filters, coarse and fine, with vacuum gauge to show status. The burner has a .55 GPH nozzle which makes good filtering important.

That link is a marketing/sales gimmick to confuse the public. Different Types of Home Heating Oil | R.F. Ohl Fuel
 
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Old 02-06-17, 07:54 PM
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I worked for a major oil delivery/service company for 20 years. Yes, there is differences. The basic oil is close to the same. Could some be more dirty than others? Maybe slightly.
We had accusations of delivering water and dirt at times and we sold top shelf oil. Our company had a policy that if we got a complaint our oil delivery quality the manager had to pull 5 stops before and after the stop that was complaining and stick tanks and all 275's not larger. If the complaint was legit it would have affected tanks before and after.
I have seen new tanks and old tanks that would surprise you. Newer tanks with a fair amount of sludge and older tanks with less. Sludge is a living organism and grows at different rates dependent on temperatures etc. I am not sure of all the sciences.
The bigger difference in fuel oils is sulfur levels and additives. We were priced in the upper echelon of pricing. We owned the tank farm where many trucks and companies loaded their loads.
Each company had a key and today would probably a key card which activated their account. We offered different additives and amounts. When they loaded the trucks the additive was added as they filled at the proper mix and was all documented. They may have chosen a certain additive at a certain mix. They would get a copy of the amount of each fuel and additive and it would add so many points to the price per gallon of fuel.
We found after about a year using the additive the fuel systems were cleaner, boilers were cleaner and consumption went down. The first year was not great as it cleaned up some of the tank sludge and fuel lines.
And now companies offer Bio-fuel mixes at different levels.
 
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Old 02-06-17, 09:02 PM
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The basic point with fuel oil is that it can have contaminants, so do things to minimize and avoid potential issues with it.

Even nature can be the source of the problem. Water gets in tank and sludge developes. Filters and oil treatments minimize the issue.

My wife is a microbiologist who worked for a major aerospace company. They had a problem with sludge developing in Navy aircraft fuel tanks.

Engineers were trying all kinds of filters without success. She was brought in on the problem. Her recommendation, keep the water out of the tanks and sludge will not form. It worked

I dealt with many COD companies. Have had metered deliveries for more than the tank holds. Vigilance is the way I minimize issues, not trust in human nature.
 
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Old 02-07-17, 06:32 AM
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...We offered different additives and amounts. When they loaded the trucks the additive was added as they filled at the proper mix and was all documented. They may have chosen a certain additive at a certain mix. They would get a copy of the amount of each fuel and additive and it would add so many points to the price per gallon of fuel.
So the delivery companies themselves are able to make adjustments to the brew like that? Interesting. I always though that, at any given time, oil company A in my town was delivering the same brew as oil company B, because they both got their oil from the same source. Apparently that's not necessarily the case.

So then, the answer to the OP's question has to be "NO", not all heating oil is the same.
 
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Old 02-07-17, 07:26 AM
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I agree with Doug, that link is almost pure advertising BS. Fuel oil is refined to six possible grades, numbered from 1 to 6. As a practical matter grades 3, 4 and 5 do not exist. That leaves grades 1, 2 and 6. Grade 1 is a highly refined product with a flash point of 110[SUP]o[/SUP] F. and is used in vaporizing "pot" burners, not many of these around. Grade 2 is a bit less refined and has a flash point of 150[SUP]o[/SUP] F. It is synonymous with Diesel engine fuel although when used for heating purposes it is dyed red which signifies that no road tax is collected on it.

ONLY grade 1 and grade 2 fuel oil is used for smaller oil burners as would be installed on residential furnaces and boilers. For the most part, grade 1 is NOT used because it has a higher cost per BTU.

There ARE some other methods of grading fuel oils, particularly on the west coast where we use Pacific Standards and grade the oil as PS 100, PS 200, PS 300 etc. These are commercial standards and NOT used in small residential systems. PS 300 is a pure black oil that is somewhat syrupy at normal temperatures and is used in some commercial oil burners like would be used in a large building's boiler or district heating system. It is generally heated to about 150[SUP]o[/SUP] F. to facilitate it's burning. Heavier oils, often referred to as "bunker" oils (Bunker C) are mostly made of the "residuals" left over after all the other petroleum products have been extracted from the crude oil. Bunker C is used in ocean going ships (both steam and Diesel) as well as oil-fired steam-electrical generation stations. Bunker C is much like tar at normal temperatures, usually needed to be heated to at least 100[SUP]o[/SUP] F. just to pump the crap while further being heated, sometimes in excess of 250[SUP]o[/SUP] F. for proper burning. Because of air pollution regulations straight Bunker C is rarely burned except on the open ocean.
 
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Old 02-08-17, 11:28 AM
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What Rockledge and other are missing is that the oil industry is trying to create confusion about #2 fuel oil. Then they build up their own brand/company for customers to focus on, rather than product specifics.

Fuel #2 oil is a well defined product that additives do little, if anything to change.

Furd's post below is an excellent explanation of fuel oils.

The real value of additives and the like, is higher profit to dealers. For consumers, the bottom line on fuel oil is the number of BTU/gallon or dollar they get from it.

I keep good records and have not seen any variation in degree days per gallon in oil over the years due to oil sources.

There are a wide range of ways oil delivery companies short change their customers. Customers should monitor their deliveries and oil levels to see what they are actually getting.
 

Last edited by doughess; 02-08-17 at 01:18 PM.
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Old 02-08-17, 05:51 PM
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In my area we have a couple companies with tankers and storage and sell to all the other smaller companies that only have delivery trucks and no storage. All the same oil coming from the same tankers in Rhode Island. #2 is #2. #1 is kerosene as was mentioned used for pot and rotary burners which are basically obsolete. They have a much cleaner burn. You can burn #1 in your system but much more expensive.

It's like the difference between Michelob and Bud. Mich from the top then Bud. Same batch, more refined. Anything over #2 needs a preheater and is not for residential and needs a different type of burner so it's immaterial.
 
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Old 02-08-17, 07:21 PM
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There are different levels of contamination in the fuel oils. We were on the Laurel pipeline and had almost 7 million storage on site. There are different additives and varying volume of mixes.
The big plus of using the additive was cleaner fuel systems, less fuel related service calls and fuel savings.
The oil boilers and furnaces were cleaner at the annual service intervals. We did see an increase of service calls when we first started the additive as the tanks and fuel systems moved more dirt through the filters and strainers. With about 27,000 accounts it was a tough years but after that first year life got easier and service calls went down, which was a plus since we had 24 hour service contracts.
 
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Old 02-09-17, 09:31 AM
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After reading thru all of the posts on this thread there seems to be little difference in the #2 fuel oil commodity. Yes there can be contaminants and additive/treatments help. Since fuel costs are significant in many budgets, seeking improvement is natural.

Companies seeking higher profits use that urge trying to differentiate their product whether it is bottled water, gasoline or fuel oil.

Customers should not be distracted by branding that oil is a commodity. If brand A is 20% more than C , and B 10% more than C, then all other things being equal buy C.

The local oil dealer here and bigger regional distributors are always much higher priced that COD sources. Often the oil is coming from the same terminals.

COD customers pay less and after adding $10 treatment get lower cost BTU's per gallon. Why should they pay more for the fancy painted truck and nicely uniformed driver. I am buying oil, not valet delivery service.

I live on Long Island's “Gold Coast” an area with some very expensive homes and estates. The COD drivers often tell me they have come from or are going next to one of those places. Apparently those customers go for the lowest price, not the higher priced brands. In my more modest neighborhood most homeowners use the premium priced valet oil dealers.
 

Last edited by doughess; 02-09-17 at 09:52 AM.
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Old 02-09-17, 11:06 AM
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I agree again with Doug.

It has been several decades since I have had anything to do with a residential oil burner but my experience then as well as much more (and more recent) experience with commercial and industrial oil burning boilers pretty much is the same as Doug's. Generally speaking, a person is better off dealing with an honest individual than with a large company and the larger the company the greater the chances for shenanigans.

For a while I was burning upwards of 15,000 gallons per day of heavy (#6) fuel oil. We were using a proprietary "fuel conditioner" that cost, as I recall, about $2,000 a barrel and adding it at the rate of about one barrel per 20,000 gallons of fuel. It made NO difference in the way the fuel burnt and minimal, if any, difference in the fireside deposits when it came time for annual inspection and cleaning.

It is also my experience that people with less money to waste are more likely to buy "insurance" with higher prices or extended warranties even though almost any financial advisor will downplay the actual savings from such insurance. I suggest doing what rich people do and forego the extended warranties and high-priced commodities in favor of lower prices. Don't spend the savings immediately but use it to provide a repair fund to help IF something breaks.
 
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Old 02-09-17, 03:34 PM
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Jet A is for all practical purposes, kerosene. If I remember correctly, the only difference was a tighter water spec for the Jet A & it was a slightly yellow where kerosene was water white.
 
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