Propane company Ferrellgas Partners, L.P. is partnering with Operation Warm, a national nonprofit organization that offers warmth, confidence and hope to underserved children through the gift of winter coats.

“At Ferrellgas, we strive to make propane easy for our customers,” Ferrellgas CEO Tamria Zertuche said. “But life isn’t always easy, especially on a cold winter day. That’s why Ferrellgas is proud to work with Operation Warm to donate these much-needed items in communities Ferrellgas serves. We’re excited to see what we can accomplish together.”

Founded in 1998, Operation Warm has served more than 4 million children across the U.S. and Canada. With the launch of Warm Soles in 2021, the organization now provides high-quality athletic shoes to children in need as well.

“We are proud to partner with Ferrellgas to help them support their communities,” Operation Warm Executive Director Grace Sica said. “They truly understand the value of warmth and how it factors into the overall well-being of children and families.”

Zertuche said Ferrellgas aligns itself with Operation Warm’s tagline ‘more than a coat,’ which means the coats provide more than physical warmth, but also emotional warmth, the confidence to socialize and succeed and hope for a brighter future.

Advanced Comfort Specialists (ACS), a Pennsylvania HVAC business, has opened its newest office at 217 Montrose Blvd. in Reading, PA. The 6,000 sq ft location was purchased in mid-May and took 5 months to renovate, which now includes a fully-stocked warehouse, loading dock and metal shop to boost operating efficiency.

For the office grand opening, ACS also help raise $2,000 for K9 for Cameryn, a fundraiser sponsored by Shillington Fire Dept. to raise money for the purchase of a service dog for Cameryn Huber. Cameryn, a 7-year-old boy, has Autism, ADHD, DMDD, and other disabilities that make daily life and routines for him and his family challenging.

“This trained K-9 will make it possible for our son to conquer his severe anxiety when he’s around people, amongst his other disabilities, and will be specifically trained for all of Cameryn’s needs,” said Scott Huber, Shillington Firefighter and Cameryn’s father.

Advanced Comfort Specialists’ also raised $560 for Olivet Boys & Girls Club, a youth advocacy organization serving 3,000+ youth and families in Reading and Berks County every year.

“Olivet Boys & Girls Club values the dedicated employees of Advanced Comfort Specialists and their work in keeping our children and our Club sites warm in the winter and cool in the summer,” said Chris Winters, Olivet BGC’s President & CEO. “The love they put into their work at our sites and the many contributions to our mission speaks well of their character and commitment to our community and our youth.”

Advanced Comfort Specialists’ Co-Owners Chad Milligan and Paul Catanzaro attribute their business success, as well as fundraising success, to the family-like culture and environment between employees, customers and management.

“Advanced Comfort Specialists has spent the last 17 years serving Berks County and beyond in any way necessary. The motto, ‘We Can’t Sleep at Night Until You Can,’ truly encompasses our efforts in helping in any way possible,” said Catanzaro, VP.

“The dedication and selflessness of our technicians, customers, and our community that led to raising $2,560 is incredibly inspiring for our team,” said Milligan, ACS’ President. “To raise money effectively for both initiatives, Advanced Comfort Specialists enlisted the help of their technicians, customers, and local community members. It also serves as a reminder to all of us that we hold incredible power when we come together as a community.”

 

Oil & Energy Service Professionals (OESP) is seeking presentations for the 2022 Eastern Energy Expo (EEE), set for May 22-25, 2022 at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT. The deadline is Jan. 14, 2022. For more info, click here. EEE is also seeking sponsorships.

OESP also announced the “2022 Care to Ride for Ralph” event will be held during EEE on Monday May 23 in Uncasville, CT. The ride is in memory of Ralph C. Adams III, who passed away in 2020. All proceeds will go to Oil Heat Cares. To create an individual or team for the ride, visit here and click on “Join.”

OESP also issued a “save the date” for the Spring 2022 Board of Directors meeting. It will be held March 17–20 in Mystic, CT. Click here for hotel info.

American Residential Services (ARS), a provider of air conditioning, heating, and plumbing services, is honoring active and former Military across the country with its ARS Cares Saluting Our Veterans program. More than 25 veterans and their families will be the recipients of a new HVAC system or water heater in advance of the winter months.

“ARS Cares Saluting Our Veterans program is all about recognizing the selfless sacrifice on behalf of our veterans as they serve our country,” said Scott Boose, CEO, ARS/Rescue Rooter. “To read the nominations and see the outpouring of support communities have for these brave men and women was heartwarming. It is our honor to do this for them, and we hope this small token of recognition demonstrates our gratitude and appreciation for all they have done.”

The Sandles family received a new HVAC system to surprise veteran William Sandles

Following ARS’ announcement on Sept. 29, family, friends and co-workers were invited to share stories of why they felt the nominees were deserving of home improvements that would help provide a higher quality of life at home, under the ARS Cares Saluting Our Veterans program. Local ARS branches then selected recipients and installations began in November. In addition to the Saluting Our Veterans Program, ARS is also committed to the hiring of Veterans. Since 2017, ARS has hired at least 250 veterans annually and is looking to double that number in 2022.

Below are a few examples of deserving recipients across the U.S.:

  • Sgt. 1st Class David Munoz has served in the Military for over 18 years, having enlisted right out of high school in 2003. During an 18-month deployment to Iraq, he earned a Medal of Valor for defusing a bomb with his bare hands. He works full-time for the National Guard and has a second job at a fast-food restaurant so he can buy equipment for a nonprofit that helps to prevent suicide among veterans. Munoz also volunteers his time by performing demonstrations as a paratrooper, skydiving out of WW2 C-47 Aircrafts with the Round Canopy Parachute team.
  • Retired Korean War Army Corporal, William Sandles, is 90 years old and has survived two bouts of colon cancer. He is currently in rehabilitation, hoping to be released this month to be reunited with his wife of 64 years, whom he has not seen since August. ARS/Rescue Rooter Houston installed a brand-new HVAC system to ensure Mr. Sandles recovers in a well-cooled and ventilated home.
  • Shaun Garry, United States Army veteran, was nominated to receive a new HVAC system by a close friend. Garry was medically discharged from the armed forces after being in five IED – improvised explosive device – explosions. Garry is also the recipient of over 14 medals, ribbons, and badges, including the Purple Heart.

The ARS Cares initiative launched in 2016 and has led to more than 150 home services makeovers. Visit ars.com/ars-cares.

Source: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/american-residential-services-ars-network-of-brands-surprises-veterans-with-home-services-makeovers-301425572.html

Women in Energy is continuing its Webinar Wednesdays. Started in 2018, each webinar begins at 12:15 pm (EST) and lasts for 30-45 minutes. All webinars are presented by WE’s Corporate and Individual members and other industry experts.

Members have access to all of the recorded webinars, including the 2021 Virtual Conference and other industry events. They are located in the Member Section of WE’s website.

Several upcoming webinars will be “intros” to the Energy Industry – from fossil fuels to green energies. These intros are designed to provide the basics. These are great sessions for CSRs, sales people and new employees. The intros will be included in WE’s new 2022 self-paced Learning Center, set to be launched in 2022.

Upcoming Webinar Wednesday schedule:

  • Nov 17: Best Practices for the Sales Process by by David Heiser, PriMedia (RSVP here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4913272580866983437)
  • Dec 1: Tackling the Need for Energy Employees
  • Dec 8: Residential/Commercial Heating & Cooling101 by Robert O’Brien
  • Dec 15: Knowing the Facts about SS-Medicare
  • Jan 12: Introduction to Solar Energy
  • Jan 19: Geothermal 101

Visit https://wewomeninenergy.com/events/webinar-wednesdays/

Article courtesy The Legislative Gazette

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed two new laws that will phase out the use of grade-6 fuel oil and coal tar paving materials — two substances that contribute to air, soil and water pollution in New York.

The first bill (S.2936-a/A.5029-a) was sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Beach, and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale. This bill phases out the use of grade 6 oil fuel for heating buildings in New York state, starting July 1, 2023.

The second bill (S.4095-b/A.518-a), sponsored by Sen. James Sanders Jr., D-Queens, and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, prohibits the use and sale of pavement materials that contain coal tar.

“The harmful effects of climate change and pollution have only heightened the importance of protecting the well-being of New Yorkers and the preservation of our state’s environment,” Governor Hochul said. “This legislation takes important steps to ensure that New Yorkers have access to clean water and a breathable environment free of harmful pollutants.”

Grade 6 oil refers to a highly viscous oil that’s left over from the production of crude oil. This grade of oil — used mostly in large commercial applications under burn permits that are grandfathered in — is cheap but also dirty and among the most harmful to the environment. It has been phased out in New York City completely, with 5,300 buildings using grade 6 oil fuel transitioning into a more environmentally-friendly fuel in 2016.

When combusted, it creates soot: incompletely combusted hydrocarbon particles that contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, alongside other contaminants that contribute air pollution and harm respiratory health.

PAHs are a class of chemicals that naturally occur in fuels such as gasoline, crude oil, and coal. When these materials, as well as garbage, wood or tobacco are combusted, they release PAHs that can bind into small particulates in the air. The contaminants that come from the combustion of oil fuel are both carcinogenic and harmful to people’s respiratory systems. Alongside PAHs, grade 6 oil fuel contains “heavy metals, nitric oxide, sulfur dioxide, nickel, and black carbon,” that contribute to soot’s makeup.

According to the Governor’s Office and the bill sponsors, there are alternative energy sources for building heating that are not only less harmful to the environment but also cost less. Because of this, the use of grade 6 oil fuel will be prohibited starting July 1, 2023.

“This legislation takes aim at one of the prime causes of climate change and extreme weather: air pollution,” said Paulin, the Assembly sponsor of the bill.” Fuel oil grade number 6 releases extremely harmful pollutants into our air.

The second bill focuses on coal tar-based pavement sealants, materials used for paving roads that contain benzo(a)pyrene alongside other harmful PAHs that have been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogenic, “particularly in children” as well as harmful to wildlife.

Recent studies conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey have shown that, while levels of most common environmental pollutants in waterways are consistently declining, levels of pollutants found in coal tar sealants are increasing.

These carcinogens leach into soils and waterways through runoff, posing a toxic threat to waterways and aquatic life. Chemicals associated with coal tar-based sealants have also been identified in house dust at “alarming levels,” according to the Governor’s Office.

Under the new law, coal tar-based sealants will not be available for sale after Nov. 8, 2022 and they will be illegal to use after Nov 8. 2023.

Suburban Propane Partners, L.P. announced the launch of the Homesential Home Protection Program in New Jersey. Homesential allows consumers to build their own home warranty coverage bundle with simple 1-2-3 pricing, no deductibles, no fees on service calls and no out-of-pocket payments for repairs of heating, air conditioning and/or interior electrical. Each coverage type has the same low monthly cost, and customers not only save by bundling two or more together, but get the added benefit of aggregating the annual coverage limit under the warranty.

The launch includes a sponsorship of Rutgers Athletics and its new brand ambassador Eric LeGrand, a Rutgers alumnus and noted philanthropist. The sponsorship will run through 2023 and will include stadium signage, as well as radio and digital ads throughout the men’s football and men’s and women’s basketball seasons.

“Suburban Propane is thrilled to join Rutgers Athletics, for the launch of Homesential, a new home-warranty product in our home state of New Jersey,” said Nandini Sankara, Spokesperson, Suburban Propane. “It’s an honor to work with Rutgers inspirational alumnus Eric LeGrand at this top-rated national university. We wish the Scarlet Knights continued success this season and beyond.”

“Rutgers Athletics welcomes Homesential to our family of partners, and we are certainly proud that such an innovative company has come on board. We look forward to working with the Homesential team for many years to come,” said Ryan Gottlieb, Associate Athletic Director, Rutgers University.

In addition, Homesential has inked a partnership with Eric LeGrand to serve as brand ambassador. In October of 2010, Rutgers football star Eric LeGrand sustained a spinal cord injury at his C3 and C4 vertebrae during a fourth quarter play at MetLife Stadium. Since then, LeGrand has been a leader and advocate for those living with spinal cord injuries.

“I’m very excited to be a part of the Homesential team, especially right here in New Jersey. It is very important that our home equipment is working up to par, but if there is an issue, knowing that there is a solution with Homesential is a breath of fresh air,” said Eric LeGrand.

Homesential will pay homage to LeGrand’s retired jersey number by donating $52 to Team LeGrand, LeGrand’s non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for the Christopher & Dana Reeves Foundation, for every turnover that the Rutgers football team’s defense secures this season.

Visit www.homesential.com.

Oatey Co., a leading plumbing manufacturer since 1916, recently partnered with nonprofit organization Miracle Mechanical to make one deserving veteran’s hope a reality through significant HVAC and plumbing repairs. Miracle Mechanical was founded by contractor Brent Ridley with the mission of uplifting families and communities through plumbing and HVAC repairs at no cost to recipients.

“The whole premise of Miracle Mechanical is to help – veterans with disabilities, elderly people and those in need,” said Ridley. “Generous sponsors like Oatey give us the means to transform people’s everyday quality of life.”

The recent Oatey-sponsored Miracle Mechanical project provided much-needed help to Cindy Koehler, a U.S. Air Force veteran who has battled multiple sclerosis (MS) and debilitating physical challenges for the past three decades. Koehler lacked clean drinking water for several years due to her home’s failing water filtration system. Rust, germs and other dangerous contaminants polluted the household water supply, making it completely unsafe to consume.

Through Oatey’s sponsorship, Ridley’s team was able to purchase and install brand new appliances, including an electric water heater, two ADA-compliant toilets and a state-the-art water filtration system – ensuring Cindy and her family have access to the best quality water.

“Something as simple as clean running water, being able to flush a toilet and wash dishes brought tears in my eyes and joy to my heart,” said Koehler. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen.”

“Improving lives is a core tenet of our mission here at Oatey,” explained Katherine Lehtinen, Oatey’s Senior VP, Brand & Digital Marketing. “When we heard about Cindy’s story, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to help. We’re honored to be a part of such an impactful project and make such a big difference for a U.S. Air Force veteran.”

Visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdFKdKdE1mI

Johnson Controls has created partnerships with Strayer University and All-In Milwaukee, building on the company’s ongoing educational initiatives. Terms of the investment were not disclosed. Johnson Controls will provide tuition assistance, internship opportunities and mentoring to underserved student populations in Milwaukee, with a goal of expanding these opportunities more broadly across the U.S. The partnerships represent Johnson Controls ongoing investment in essential skilled trades education, including technician training for HVAC, fire and security and digital building automation systems as well as finance, supply chain and information technology (IT).

Through Strayer University’s Grads to Work program, Johnson Controls will select four high school graduates from the Milwaukee area to be recipients of Johnson Controls-funded tuition for an associate degree in either Accounting or IT at Strayer University along with a paid internship at Johnson Controls. The program is currently in its pilot phase with the opportunity to expand in the future to serve underrepresented students beyond the Milwaukee area. Johnson Controls has also begun a partnership with All-In Milwaukee and will be selecting students for internships and mentoring.

“Johnson Controls is the global leader in sustainable facilities management through our products, technology, software and services, but it’s up to the next generation to carry forward our mission of sustainability and help realize a net zero carbon world,” said Katie McGinty, VP & Chief Sustainability and External Relations Officer of Johnson Controls. “We want to equip students with the knowledge and expertise needed to be successful in making our society cleaner, healthier, more sustainable and more efficient. Our goal is to help ambitious, deserving students break through barriers and overcome challenges that may prevent them from pursuing a full-time career as a technician. Through these partnerships, we aim to make career paths in systems and digital solutions more accessible while increasing diversity and inclusion within our industry. We will continue looking for opportunities to invest in important educational initiatives.”

Further, Johnson Controls is supporting a success coach to help Milwaukee Area Technical College students succeed in HVAC coursework and strengthen industry connections through efforts like networking events, field trips and guest speakers.

The demand for HVAC technicians continues to rise due to industry growth and the need for new and renovated buildings, Johnson Controls said. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), HVAC jobs will be added at a rate of 4% through 2029. Additionally, the Biden Administration announced ambitious energy efficiency efforts earlier this year, including investments in heating and cooling technology, research into smart buildings and initiatives to make buildings more sustainable. As the U.S. shifts toward a cleaner economy, the next generation of technicians will need specialized skills that will help combat environmental changes. Finance, supply chain and IT professionals with these skills will also be sought after to support the move to a more eco-friendly future.

“We’re proud to bring the Grads to Work program to a forward-thinking company such as Johnson Controls in their effort to provide employment and educational opportunities in Milwaukee,” said Strayer University President Andrea Backman. “Providing young adults with educational pathways at no cost as they navigate the workforce, many for the first time, is critical to increasing their economic mobility.”

“All-In Milwaukee is thrilled to partner with Johnson Controls to develop the future, diverse workforce of Milwaukee,” said All-in-Milwaukee’s Executive Director Allison Wagner. “With Johnson Controls’ internships and mentors, our scholars will graduate college with the skills and experiences needed to be successful in career. We are grateful for Johnson Controls urgency and All-In Milwaukee Board Member Olivier Leonetti’s leadership to develop this new partnership. The All-In promise is to transform Milwaukee by supporting our students to complete college and build their careers. Career partners, like Johnson Controls, ensure a vibrant Milwaukee when they invest in our scholars and support their career development with internships and mentors. Both are essential for diverse, young talent to enter the workforce and transform our city.”

Earlier this year, Johnson Controls launched the Johnson Controls Community College Partnership Program which includes an investment of $15 million over the next five years to support academic programs at non-profit community colleges. The investment will fund the purchase of classroom materials, learning technologies and student scholarships. Local Johnson Controls employees will also serve as volunteer educators and mentors to students.

Visit: https://www.johnsoncontrols.com/corporate-sustainability/community.

Jeff Hammond, Chief Operating Officer, Star Group, L.P.

Star Group, L.P. is a full service, multi-state energy provider specializing in the sale of home heating products and services to residential and commercial customers. Star Group’s retail operations operate under many brand names including Petro, Meenan, Region Energy, Burke Energy and more.

In order to offer its customers a viable heating fuel that reduces carbon emissions, Star Group has committed to providing a 20% biodiesel blend (B20) into all the heating fuel it delivers.

ICM‘s publisher, Don Farrell had the opportunity to chat with Star Group’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Hammond, about their transition to B-20 Bioheat® fuel.

ICM:  It is my understanding that Star Group is committed to delivering blends of biodiesel up to B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% heating oil) across its entire customer base, is that accurate?
Hammond: Yes, that is accurate. Star Group is very committed to providing B20 to all of our customers. We feel it is the right thing to do for customers and for the communities that we serve. There is a lot of dialogue about climate change, both at the state and the national level, and we really believe that our industry has to be a part of that discussion. If we continue to provide increasing levels of Bioheat® fuel, we can offer an easy and affordable solution to help meet a goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Unfortunately, it seems most states and local legislators do not really know that. I am not sure that we have done a good enough job educating them and they see heating oil companies as providers of “that old fossil fuel.” Much of what we do and what we have done over the last few years aligns with everything they are trying to accomplish with carbon reduction.
We need to, as an industry, stand together and really get our message out there—explain it better to state and local public policy makers, as well our customers. Once people see what we have to offer and how we can help meet those goals, I think they are going to be quite surprised and it is going to be a welcomed surprise. We can certainly offer a much more economical option for reducing carbon emissions than many of the other alternatives out there.
ICM: What was the driving force behind this? How did this get started within your company?
Hammond: We feel that we are at a crossroads, and we have been hearing about climate change for a while. But unfortunately, many of retail fuel companies dodged the issue. We were not standing up and making the right decisions to move our industry forward. Meanwhile, state-after-state was implementing regulations that could have hurt our business.
There have been a few companies that have really put themselves in front of the pack and got on board with Bioheat® fuel very early on. They went through the growing pains, they tested it, they have proven-out a lot of the issues and concerns that we had. I give a lot of credit to those companies.
Internally, we felt that it was time that we also got on-board and really showed our support for the industry as it makes the move forward with a low carbon, renewable fuel.
Ten or 15 years ago, we first tried to deliver Bioheat® fuel and had mixed success. Our biggest struggle was supply. We are not a company that has its own terminal where all our trucks can pick up B10, B20 or whatever blend we choose. We rely on outside suppliers, so we needed everybody to get on board to help us have a consistent supply. We are starting to see some of the major suppliers get behind  it. Many of the heating equipment manufacturers are being very supportive as well. It is certainly going to make our journey a lot easier.
However, in some ways it is like the chicken and the egg. Because we are so big, many companies are waiting for us to make the move. Now, it is all fitting together, I think the timing is right.

 
ICM: You mentioned the term Bioheat® fuel, and of course, Bioheat® fuel is a registered trademark name for a blend of biodiesel with traditional heating oil. Are you talking about blending biodiesel only or do you have other renewable fuels you are working with, such as renewable diesel?
Hammond:  Right now, it is pretty much biodiesel. It is a more available and an economical option. Where that goes in the future depends on the overall market. For now, we are very happy with our choice of biodiesel fuel.
ICM: With biodiesel, good product is the key to getting this right, isn’t it?
Hammond:  Absolutely, it needs to be ASTM D6751 biodiesel.
ICM: When did Star Group make this decision?
Hammond:  Actually, it was late 2019 early 2020 when we were having some serious discussions about it. We met with Paul Nazzaro, Nazzaro Group, the National Biodiesel Board and Michael Trunzo, Shenker Russo & Clark, LLC, to talk about how we can make this happen. Nazzaro has been a great resource. He and his team have worked side-by-side with us. After those meetings, we just made the commitment and said, “we cannot keep talking about it, we have to get it done.”
Early in 2020, we started having meetings with some of the major suppliers about it, then COVID-19 hit. It put everyone in a tailspin for a bit, fortunately, we have been able to work through that. This past winter, our goal was to have all our New England companies’ customers (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) on B20. Because of COVID-19, some concerns about supply issues and some infrastructure work had to be addressed, we wound up with about 60% of that territory receiving B20. Little by little, that keeps creeping up as we are able to build a network and fill in the gaps. We are feeling very positive about moving forward.
This coming season we are expanding into New York. We are looking to secure that area, Long Island, New York City, upstate New York, a little bit in New Jersey, and maybe even a little bit of Maryland as well. The last step would be to fill in the rest of our southern markets. We are planning to be delivering 100% B20 by 2023 to match the Providence Resolution* and I feel very confident.
ICM: Would you care to share who you getting your product from?
Hammond: We have agreements with Sprague, Global, Northville, quite a few folks.
ICM: You had one heating season where you had at least 60% of your New England customer base on B20. Is that right?
Hammond: Yes, it probably represented 15-18% of our total customers.
ICM: Can you tell me what the total is?
Hammond: We have about 400,000 heating oil customers.
ICM: That equates to something like 70,000 customers on B20 for the entire heating season. Did you come across any equipment or tank issues with the B20?
Hammond: Actually, it went very well. As we started to put things in place, it was not 100% just flip the switch on October 1, 2020. Throughout the summer of 2020 we had been adding locations. As we added a location, we watched it to see the impact. As we went through the winter, we could see it was almost a non-event. It was almost unnoticeable from a service standpoint, and we felt that to be good news.
We are currently working with John Batey  from the Energy Resource Center and the Oilheat Manufacturers Association to analyze service records in more detail. We are trying to establish some benchmarks that we can watch as we go through this process, to see how it impacts delivery and service changes, if at all. I can tell you when I did a preliminary analysis of the amount of service calls per customer over a six-year period adjusted for weather, the results were slightly better as far as calls per customer. However, it was  almost unnoticeable. We really feel positive about that.
ICM: You’re saying that after your preliminary analysis, you are not finding any real detriment with B20, maybe even a little bit improvement of service calls?
Hammond: Yes. I compared October through March results for the last six years. Interestingly, where I did find the first downtick in service calls was when we went to ultra-low sulfur fuel. When we ran the numbers, we saw a little bit of improvement and that improvement has been maintained through implementation of B20. That is what we expected and are we are certainly anticipating going forward.
As we get the higher blends, there may be some challenges. I am sure the whole industry will work through them. Right now, everything looks pretty good.
ICM: You’re handling B20 at many locations. How are you blending, where are you blending and how are you storing?
Hammond: That was part of our challenge. We really needed the product to come pre-blended. We have been working with some of the major suppliers, and I know they really got behind this and are working to provide it for us. Since we have so many pick up points and locations, it would be very difficult for us to do our own blending at every single terminal. A good percentage of the terminals we pick up from, we do not own, we just have an agreement with them.
We need heating oil to be B20 when it hits the first terminal, or at least blended at that primary terminal, rather than relying on the secondary network to get that done. I do not feel we want to encourage people to get into splash blending and things like that. I really believe that the specs of heating oil should change in the future so that when you are purchasing oil, you are purchasing B20 at a minimum.
ICM: Because you are not storing and blending high blends of biodiesel, did you have to make any modifications in your infrastructure?
Hammond: No, we have not had to at this point. We have looked at some things we can do with some of terminals and if we need to, we certainly will. At this point, in most of the areas, especially in New England, we are picking up at the first supply point on the water, terminal, etc. They are blending it right there for us.
ICM: Your company is publicly owned and traded. You have stockholders, unlike most oil companies that are privately owned. How was the move to biodiesel presented to the board or the stockholders and what was their reaction?
Hammond: Certainly our board supports what we are doing. They understand and they believe it is the right thing to do. Obviously, we disclose these things in our public 10K reports and everything else, so it is out there. However, we have not received too many questions from stockholders.
ICM: You have not really identified yourselves as “Going Green”?
Hammond: What we really wanted to do in the first phase, through the New England area and before we overcommitted or put ourselves out there with bold announcements, was to make sure we could consistently provide this product. I think we are at that point now. Having gone through last winter, we feel very confident that we can continue to provide this product and really promote it. I think we have a lot of customer education that we are looking to do.

 
ICM: Before we get to the customer, have your employees been educated on this, especially your service technicians? Was there anything you had to overcome there?
Hammond: When I had early discussions with Paul (Nazzaro) we talked about what an important issue employee communication and education was and that there were some deep concerns about Bioheat® fuel that ran through many in the service tech community. The good news is, Paul and his team, and others like you, have done a lot of work on this. Everything has come a long way.
I think it was a good opportunity for us to dispel a lot of the myths and rumors that were out there. This was chance to update everyone on where we are today with equipment versus where we were 10 years ago.
We also held informal meetings with the technicians and other employees. We let them talk and ask questions and really take them through everything that has evolved to where we are today. That, combined with the fantastic support from our entire management team, has made this smooth.
You asked earlier about service issues, and I said it was unnoticeable, but we had a couple of things happen that people right away jumped and said, “it is the biodiesel”…but it was not. Once we clearly communicated what the real issue was, everyone was fine again. There are always going to be those people waiting for the shoe to drop, but overall, they reacted very well and it has gone pretty smoothly. With Paul’s team, and having other people, like John Levy and everyone else I mentioned, active and available so it is not me telling them what I heard, it is coming from the source. That has helped.
Additionally, we have just completed a series of high-level training sessions for all our management employees throughout our entire footprint. Once again, Paul and his team have been great. They took us through all the communications: What is Bioheat® fuel? Where does it come from? Why we should be moving forward with this product and what is the industry doing to get on board? What is our company doing? I have been receiving very good feedback from a lot of the attendees.
We have had local management teams asking for more specifics about certain items, whether it is our fleet mechanics or our delivery operations. It is really starting to pick up momentum.
ICM: Star Group has about 400,000 retail accounts, around 70,000 of which have already been using B20. Did you have a consumer marketing campaign? And if you did, what is your customers’ reactions?
Hammond: As I mentioned earlier, the initiative in New England was somewhat of a test. We wanted to make sure, before we marketed the benefits of Bioheat® fuel, that we could actually get our supply. We also wanted to make sure that operationally we had no challenges that we could not work through. We did not do a lot of marketing this past winter. But now, we have starting to do that over the last month or so.
Our first foray into marketing was external customer communications on Earth Day. We have planned a series of customer emails, leave-behinds and invoice stuffers targeting the questions: What his Bioheat® fuel? What are its advantages? How does it help the environment? How will it help me as a consumer? We also want to address the things that they are hearing about electrification. We feel that if they are educated properly, many of them will choose to stay with our product.
ICM: The electrification plan you mention is the strategy in many states to convert people from fossil fuels to electric heat pumps, and in these plans, the electricity will be generated by renewable sources. That is a long way down the road and may not ever be feasible. There are public policy makers in many states who have yet to even accept a low-carbon liquid fuel, like biodiesel or renewable diesel, as a viable solution in their road map to zero carbon. Are you getting into the legislative action side of it?
Hammond:  We are certainly supportive of that and we typically look to someone like Michael Trunzo who has done a lot of work with us. Obviously, we are supporting the National Energy Fuels Institute and its efforts.
From a financial standpoint, we are putting our money where we need it to be. I think we have the right people as a resource for our industry to have those discussions. I have had several meetings with different legislators to explain to them how we are a big part of the solution. I think we all must be active in that. We certainly support all the efforts that everyone has been trying to do in that regard.
ICM: Star Group, which has brands such as Petro and others, is such a large company, with 400,000 customers. Do you think you can have an impact on the market to move the needle for low carbon fuels?
Hammond: We certainly hope that happens. In many discussions over the years, whether it is through our local organizations or state associations, we were reminded of our size and influence. We do not really try to influence the market, but we do support the industry.
We do not try to act like everything is about us, but it is funny that we keep being reminded that everyone is looking at us. We do feel that responsibility and we do feel that we need to take a leadership position. We are hoping that it moves the needle a little bit with some of the suppliers, and I think we are seeing that. I also hope it moves other companies that may be sitting on the fence. We really believe the whole industry needs to do it.
ICM: What about higher blends? Do you have plans to go beyond B20?
Hammond: Yes, absolutely. We know, like everyone else, B20 is not going to be enough. We know that we are going to have to go to higher blends. We think, with the timetable that has been laid out with initiatives like NEFI’s Providence Resolution and the milestones for higher blends it sets, it is certainly achievable. We certainly will be right there with everyone else. We are going to look at our operations once we get past B20 in all areas. We are not waiting for those next milestones. We are going to try to do whatever we can, if we can get supply, to move to higher blends earlier. If everyone in the industry works together, I really think we can meet those goals.
ICM: If you could give a message for those in the industry who think that this is unnecessary, what would it be?
Hammond: We are way past the point of should we or maybe—we must do this. I do not know how much more evidence we need; you see it almost every day. You cannot get away from it. Climate change is being interwoven into every facet of our life. Our industry is one of the key targets and if we do not get on-board, we are going to get left behind.
There are so many benefits for our industry to move to higher blends of Bioheat® fuel. It is the right choice for so many of our customers out there and I think we’d be doing them a disservice if we allow them stay where they are, putting them in a position where they will not have a choice. They will have to move to electric or heat pumps or some other source when that is not the right thing to do. There is a positive answer here, but doing nothing at this point is not an option. I certainly understand that there may be some small retailers out there who do not think they have the resources to do this, but the options are not good at this point. The earlier we can make this move, the better off it is going to be for everybody. I really believe that in the end, they are going to be very happy that they made the right choice. ICM