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Oil burner oil line switch (C) Daniel FriedmanBioheat: Biodiesel Heating Fuels
Uses, Properties & Warnings about biodiesel fuels used in oil-fired heating equipment

  • BIODIESEL HEATING FUELS - CONTENTS: using biodiesel in oil burners designed for heating appliances: boilers, furnaces, water heaters. Oil fired heating equipment may need modifications for successful use of bioheat or bio-fuels. Successful use of biofuel mix in this equipment depends on proper fuel selection and equipment design & maintenance.
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Biodiesel heating fuel use in oil burners:

This article describes the use of various biodiesel fuel mixes in oil fired heating equipment: heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters. The energy content of biofuels is about 90% that of fuel oil. Using the wrong biodiesel fuel mix or burning pure biodiesel B-100 in oil burners risks equipment damage, malfunction, loss of heat, and safety hazards.

Research cited here describes arguments about the overall cost effectiveness of the production of biodiesel fuel, on the impact of biodiesel fuels on motors, engines, oil burners, and on comprable environmental impacts of burning fuel oil, diesel fuel, and biodiesel mixed fuels.



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Using Biodiesel B6-B20 vs. B-100 in Home Heating System Oil Burners

Suntec fuel unit damaged by biodiesel (C) InspectAPedia S. CampOil Burners & Biodiesel Use

The potential damage caused by use of biodiesel fuels in some engines or pumps that use rubber components has been documented and researched for more than a decade.

Watch out: Current fuel unit UL listings and standards such as ASTM D396 limit the use of biodiesel in these devices to 5% giodiesel content. Equipment designed to operate at 5% biodiesel mix (along with 95% conventional diesel or heating oil) are not compatible with higher concentrations of biodiesel.

In this article we provide updates on the design of heating equipment such as oil burner fuel units designed to accomodate up to 20% biodiesel use without damage. We also include a field report of repeated failures of components in an oil burner fuel unit (oil pump) in which a homeowner was burngin B100 (100% biodiesel).

In December 2014, Suntec, a leading manufacturer of heating oil and fuel oil pumps announced the development of new models intended for use with biodiesel. Excerpting from SUNTEC'Ss B-20 (20% BIODIESEL) USE12/22/2014 Announcement:

We are developing new specific pump models compatible with biodiesel (as defined in ASTM D6751) heating oil blends up to 20% to complete our standard range of pumps. These models will be clearly identified as B20 models.

Models A2VA 7116 B20 and A2VA 3006 B20 will be available from 1st January 2015.

Important note: today’s standard pumps and valves are UL rated with #1 and #2 fuel according to ASTM D396. This fuel definition sets a limit to 5% biodiesel content. These products are not compatible with 20% biodiesel blends.

SUNTEC does not warranty these standard models for use of blends higher than 5% biodiesel. - SUNTEC'Ss B-20 (20% BIODIESEL) USE12/22/2014

Reader Question: Using 100% Biodiesel - B100 and Heating Oil Pumps - rubber component damage & leaks: loss of pressure at Suntec fuel unit (oil burner pump)

12/5/2014 Steve said:

I am running B 100 in my oil furnance with using a Beckett / Suntec oil pump and have had premature failure of the pumps. The pump gradually looses oil pressure and I readjust till there isn't anymore to work with. I've inspected several of the pumps and find them very clean and no signs of wear anywhere.

B100 is destructive to rubber components but I can't find any rubber components other than a material in the tip of pressure regulating component with a small hole through it. do you have any insight as to why I am loosing pressure?
Thank you, Steve

This question appeared originally at OIL BURNER FUEL UNIT.

Reply:

Steve, some diagnostic questions

Is this a 1-line or 2-line piping system for oil delivery?
Is the oil tank buried?
What is the total pump lift height required?
Have you vacuum tested the piping system for leaks?
Have you inspected the oil filter and pump internal screen for contaminants, water, sludge?

Watch out: beyond loss of heat, leaks in a fuel unit can spray oil about and thus be dangerous. I would be sure to give the manufacturer a call to ask their advice. Bottom line: if the fuel you are using is damaging the fuel unit and is a fuel for which your fuel unit was not designed, we can't call these problems "premature failure" of the oil pump.

12/8/2014 Steve said:

My system has the tank (275 gal) mounted inside the same building as the furnace. It is eight feet away from the furnace and the pump is 12 inches above the outlet of the tank. It is a single line setup. I have not performed a vacuum test on it.

Suntec fuel unit damaged by biodiesel (C) InspectAPedia S. Camp Suntec fuel unit damaged by biodiesel (C) InspectAPedia S. Camp

As mentioned earlier, I have disassembled several of the past pumps and found them to be very clean, including the pump screen. I have a separate filter/sediment bowl system on the fuel tank that recently had it's preseason maintenance. The old filter was not contaminated with above normal foreign material.

Each of these pumps only last about 1 to 1 1/2 months before having to be changed out. Furnace output and operation appear to be very normal until pressure starts dropping and then I have to readjust the pressure to bring it back to normal. I've also been looking for a repair station that could overhaul these pumps and maybe give me some insite as to why they are failing prematurely but so far no success.

Our local service companies have never repaired or inspected any pumps, they just replace them. Do you have any suggestions? I live in Eastern Washington State. - Thank You, Steve

Reply: Using Biodiesel in home heating system oil burners

So there is not much lift capacity required - a one line piping system ought to work. Most likely the fuel unit failiures you are experiencing are caused by damage to internal rubber parts or gaskets, but nonetheless, I'd get a vacuum gauge on the suction side of the fuel unit piping - typically between the oil filter and the fuel unit.

Really? You said you are using B100 biodiesel for heating fuel in a conventional oil burner. B-100 is biodiesel in pure form, more likely to be harmful to certain rubber parts or gaskets in equipment where it is used.

There are solvents in biodiesel that can damage rubber parts including gaskets or seals in some oil pumps. Solvents in biodiesel might also release an older thickened coating or "varnish" found in oil tanks and oil piping, maybe in the fuel unit itself - that in turn could clog a fuel unit's openings, valves, passages.

This fuel was expected to be used in diesel motors or for home heating, but depending on the percentage of biofuel to diesel mix for use as a heating fuel, the mixture will have properties that might affect an oil burner fuel unit or pump besides what I already stated (and I suspect you know).

From my reading on the subject equipment manufacturers expect users to employ a mix of biodiesel and conventional No. 2 home heating oil (aka "bioheat"), not pure or straight biodiesel. The range of mix of biodiesel with No. 2 heating oil, from what I read, is from about 2% to 20% according to the research. None of the sources I reviewed described using B-100 as a home heating fuel. If you have such references please share them with me.

OPNION: the costs, benefits, and environmental impacts of using biofuels have not been clearly determined nor stated. Beyond the somewhat hidden and more subtle costs of damaged engines or oil burning equipment when biofuels are burned and the requirement to design new equipment to burn biodiesel fuels, Runge and Senauer (2007) pointed out that

... filling the 25-gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol [which is not in fact what is done - Ed] requires 450 pounds of corn - which contains enough calories to feed one peson for a year. - Runge and Senauer (2007)

Does the manufacturer have an opinion about biodiesel? If you have not asked, we'll send a query.

Comments from Suntec about using Biodiesel fuel in oil burners

Parts revised for Suntec fuel units to permit handling of biodiesel-20 heating fuel - Courtesy of Suntec Industries - InspectAPedia.com

At left: parts that may change in new fuel units (oil burner pumps) designed to handle bioheat or B-20 biodiesel heating fuel, image provided courtesy Suntec Industries.

The following information was provided by Sunted in a generous and prompt reply to our question about using biofuels in oil fired heating boilers where a Suntec fuel unit is installed. It seems likely that other manufacturers have made or will make similar adjustments to products to permit safe use of biofuels as those described below.

[Click to enlarge any image]

After the first of the year [JANUARY 2015], Suntec will introduce two of our best-selling pumps approved for B20. [Biodiesel-20].

Regarding the consumer's comment:

“I can find any rubber components other than a material in the tip of the pressure regulating component with a small hole through it”

That is the reason for this failure. [The fuel unit loss of pressure failure described by reader Steve above. - Ed]

That hole is not supposed to be there. Each time the pump turns on, pressure builds against this solid rubber surface (what we refer to as the piston seat). When it reaches a force equal to spring resistance, the piston seat moves back and pressurized fuel is passed out the nozzle. Each time the pump turns off, the piston seat will hit against the end of the nozzle very quickly to cut fuel flow.

With a high bioblend, this piston seat will soften and when it strikes against the nozzle end, will slowly deteriorate until a hole forms. With this hole, pressure will no longer build and the pump will stop functioning. I have attached a picture showing the different parts that will be in the B20 pumps. The piston seat in these is white Teflon compared to the black hytrel in the current model.

We also have an A2VA7116T model available for use with B100 fuels. Since this model is for non-approved fuels percentages, there is no warranty for fuel related issues. This model will come with a Teflon piston seat and Viton shaft seal and Viton “o” rings. - Ken Skoda, Suntec, Private email K.S. to DJF 12/8/2014. Mr. Skoda can be contacted at Suntec at Ken Skoda Sales Department Toll Free 1-800-367-7116 Direct 1-270-659-3855 Cell 1-270-404-0254, Email: KSkoda@suntecpumps.com

[PDF's & images TBA in this location]

12/8/2014 Steve said

Dan
My system has the tank (275 gal) mounted inside the same building as the furnace. It is eight feet away from the furnace and the pump is 12 inches above the outlet of the tank. It is a single line setup. I have not performed a vacuum test on it. As mentioned earlier, I have disassembled several of the past pumps and found them to be very clean, including the pump screen. I have a separate filter/sediment bowl system on the fuel tank that recently had it's preseason maintenance.

The old filter was not contaminated with above normal foreign material. Each of these pumps only last about 1 to 1 1/2 months before having to be changed out. Furnace output and operation appear to be very normal until pressure starts dropping and then I have to readjust the pressure to bring it back to normal. I've also been looking for a repair station that could overhaul these pumps and maybe give me some insite as to why they are failing prematurely but so far no success. Our local service companies have never repaired or inspected any pumps, they just replace them. Do you have any suggestions? I live in Eastern Washington State.

Thank You, Steve

Reply:

Steve

I have added this conversation to the bottom of the article above and have asked Suntec if they can help us out. I'll keep you posted here.

Also if you can send along some photos of your installation including of the fuel unit and oil piping and furnace, that'd be helpful. Use the email at the CONTACT US link found at page top or bottom.

12/10/2014 Steve said:

Thank you for your informed and helpful comments as well as making contact with Suntec and their answers. To broaden the window of information about my circumstances I am a farmer and have been successfully growing and processing my own oil seeds into biodiesel for the past 7 years and using it to operate our entire fleet of equipment and vehicles. It is used in a 450 hp tractor down to 28 hp lawn mower and road vehicles. It is used in Cummins, Kubota, Catapillar, Duramax and Volkswagon engines. Other than rubber fuel components, single digit cold gelling issues, and 1 computerized emissions that required some alterations, I have found B100 to be a direct replacement for diesel. I even use it in two space heaters.

I respect Suntec's opinion of B100 but for all the years and "tests" I have performed with it I do not have the safety concerns they shared. I continue to look for ways to replace conventional fuels in hopes of putting to bed some of the "myths" out there that don't seem to make any sense to me. More and more credible sources are coming on the scene with positive results using biodiesel in modern functions. I applaud Suntec for their vision to meet that need with their two new B20 fuel pumps and the B100 pump.
Again, thank you for your assistance, it was greatly appreciated and I am now the "wiser"
Best Regards, Steve

Reply:

Thanks Steve.

Watch out: The UL and ASTM standards currently applying to many motors and home heating oil equipment are cited at the top of this article and limit biodiesel use in current products to 5% Biodiesel. Suntec has announced new pump models available in January 2014 that can handle 20% biodiesel mix. At higher concentrations or at the 100% biodiesel B-100 that you like, the company cannot warrant its products.

Indeed the full picture of costs and benefits of biofuels are difficult to tease out and probably need filtration for economic biases too. Certainly there is no doubt - we cited ample research going on for years - that biodiesel is harmful to rubber and similar materials that may be used in not just oil burner pumps but lots of other mechanisms.

OPINION: Taking a more broad view of biofuels and noting effects of subsidies, the role of G-mod seeds, the impacts on biodiversity, food prices, and the full impact on the environment when all of the equipment and handling motors of biofuel production are factored in leave one less than sure that the measurable, not to mention the non-measurable costs of what seems like a good idea - less environmental pollution - are given clearly, nor are they likely to be.

Research & Reporting on Biodiesel as a Home Heating Fuel

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