Preparing the Ground to Market Low Carbon Fuels & Services

Written on: June 3, 2024 by Michael Devine

With all the challenges that the retail liquid heating marketer faces today—including diminishing degree days, regulatory uncertainty, and the difficulty in identifying and hiring qualified drivers and technicians—there lies another reality that is emerging year over year. The new, younger liquid heating customer is far more conscious of the environment and reducing their carbon footprint than their parents were. Last year, I spent my time on the conference circuit sharing the findings from the Pew Research Center’s June 28, 2023, report entitled “Majorities of Americans Prioritize Renewable Energy, Back Steps to Address Climate Change,” which provided an unequivocal data set and it posed a generational question for our industry.

Are we in the business of delivering high carbon fuels and services or are we in the business of delivering low carbon products and services?

This is not an existential or political question. It’s a simple decision that will likely guide your organization forward over the next decade. If we do not realize where the market is moving and freely admit that we cannot change it, then this question gets a little easier to solve. Just to be clear, we are talking about going Green here, environmentally for sure, but also and more importantly, financially as well. Carbon freedom is not free; there is a cost to decarbonization that every industry is facing.

The advantage that our industry has is that our cost of decarbonization is nominal at best and our transition costs to our customers are minimal. The NORA team will be hitting the road soon, sharing some of the advancements that we are working on to assist the liquid heating market in these important transitions to low carbon liquid fuels. Presented below are some of the initiatives that we are working on in 2024. As always, we welcome the opportunity to speak with your State or regional association.

Low-Carbon Renewable Fuels Testing
The road to decarbonizing an industry is paved with many research and development projects and initiatives. For the liquid heating industry, NORA is presently focusing on the testing of advanced biofuels such as biodiesel and renewable diesel and how they are integrated with technological advancements in new burner technology, higher efficiency boilers, furnaces and hot water appliances. The overall goal of the work at NORA today is to address any technical barriers to the widespread conversion of the liquid fuels heating industry from fossil fuels to high blends of renewable biofuels, including biodiesel and renewable diesel. The testing we have conducted, thus far, has produced very good results with these fuels in the NORA lab.

NORA is actively testing 100% renewable fuels for liquid heating at its Research Center in Plainview, NY. Powering heating appliances with 100% low-carbon renewable fuels will drastically reduce carbon emissions while allowing consumers to benefit from the opportunities provided through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022. The IRA provides for a $600 tax credit for purchasing a new liquid fuel heating appliance approved for operating with higher blends of renewable fuels.

This past heating season, NORA has conducted B100 field tests at 12 sites on New York’s Long Island and six sites in Massachusetts (with a nominally distilled biodiesel). Additionally, these field tests are providing very high-quality data points on changes in fuels over time during the heating season and summer season and on service requirements with high biodiesel blends. These field tests provide critically needed information to manufacturers, fuel marketers and potential fuel users to help with equipment design and planning of storage and delivery logistics. Five new sites are being added now in Maryland and during this past year, the scope of the testing has broadened to include new B100 burners released by Carlin and Beckett. Aside from providing test locations for these new burners, the field tests are critical in providing realistic environments for evaluating lessons learned from the in-lab tests.

Transitioning to Low-Carbon Fuels
Currently, there is increasing interest in the Northeastern region of the U.S. in renewable diesel as a renewable transportation and liquid heating fuel, which could be used at 100% or blended with biodiesel up to 20%. Starting in the 2024/2025 Winter season, NORA will be seeking to sharply increase the number of test sites using RD or RD/Bio blends. NORA has been approached by a renewable fuel producer with a strong interest in exploring 100% renewable liquid heating R&D fields test. Prior to the start of the next heating season, we are planning to have a regional workshop with marketers and interested manufacturers to gauge interest and plan logistics around this R&D project. If your organization is interested, please let us know.

NORA will continue its collaborative work with Clean Fuels and other industry stakeholders to identify additional emissions data, which may be needed to support increased use of biodiesel and renewable diesel and develop/execute the testing needed.

Our NORA Research Associate, Dr. Jenny Frank, is publishing the first research paper on the NORA Net Zero home in the next month or so and she will be continuing her research on the environmental and economic benefits of our industry’s transition to lower carbon fuels. One of the key elements in this improved environmental and economic narrative is recognizing all of the key impacts as we transition our customers to new, high efficiency equipment. Utilizing NORA equipment rebates, the IRA’s $600 dollar tax credit for new equipment, this new improved efficiency coupled with the inclusion of renewable fuels, provides for a significantly improved emissions profile and the costs savings for the consumer.

Education & Outreach
NORA is also providing technical education for thousands of technicians who install and service liquid heating systems. This education is heavily focused on energy efficiency and carbon reduction. As part of our 2024 education curriculum, NORA will be providing BPI certification programs for our liquid heating industry professionals, so they can conduct the building energy audits to support the HOMES provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. NORA is also in the process of becoming a BPI Testing Center at the NORA Research Center in Plainview, NY.

One of the first notable actions that NORA embarked on in 2024 was during the first week of February when approximately 5,600 liquid heating marketers and industry support companies received a package from NORA containing its newly produced Biodiesel Blends Quick Guide for service professionals, as well as the Bioheat® fuel FAQs for Customer Service Representatives. Following this distribution, we received inquiries from many companies requesting up to 250 additional cards per organization. To date, we have not received any negative feedback and all the responses have been positive and complimentary.

To close, no one truly knows what the future holds for the liquid heating industry over the next several decades. The home heating industry has evolved over the centuries from wood, whale oil, coal, heating oil and now we are in the process of the transition to renewable liquid heating fuels and services. NORA is working hard at trying to solve the technical barriers for us to achieve 100% liquid renewable heating in the not-so-distant future. If you have any questions regarding this topic or the other many activities at NORA, please feel free to get in touch with me at

The question we should be asking ourselves in 2024 is—Are we in the business of delivering high carbon fuels and services or are we in the business of delivering low carbon products and services? ICM