It’s no secret that ultra-low sulfur products have
taken over the distillate pool in New England. First,
high-sulfur blends of diesel fuel switched over.
Then it was followed a few years later by the advent of
ultra-low sulfur heating oil. Reducing sulfuric acid in
our atmosphere has led to the championing of a common
message: We’re cleaner now. This is great for the industry
and our customers.
I have often been asked what the difference is between
ultra-low sulfur diesel and ultra-low sulfur heating oil.
They look the same, they smell the same and, hey, they
probably taste the same. So, what makes them different?
The short answer is nothing, really, save for taxes
Not all fuels are created equal and need different
conditioning agents for different end purposes.
(exemptions) and federal regulations (prohibited use in
My expertise in the diesel/oil industry is in advanced
chemical application, or in short, additives. That’s what
I do for a living: help diesel jobbers, heating oil companies
and customers with gen-sets deal with everyday
problems that middle distillates can cause—in today’s
case, fuel instability.
Ultra-low sulfur blends of fuel are more hygroscopic,
meaning they like moisture much more than their predecessors.
Unfortunately, they cannot hold that moisture
as well, leaving stored fuels susceptible to water
entrainment, microbial contamination and corrosion.
Helping fuels do what they should
I’ve conducted training and presentations focused on
chemical technology to help our fuels do the job they
were made to do—that is, perform in today’s diesel
engines the way they are supposed to. Similarly, I’ve
Advanced Fuel Soutions
focused on helping heating oil do its job in basement
furnaces without becoming spoiled due to time and temperature.
Long story short, many folks using additives
in the field today may not know which additives are supposed
to do what, such as ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD)
and ultra-low-sulfur heating oil (ULSHO).
Take a recent conversation I had with a retail heating
oil dealer. This is a third-generation, multi-state
company with a wealth of experience in storing and
moving distillates. During our conversation, the topic of
desulfurization came up. He believed one additive could
be used across the board because, “after all, diesel and
heating oil are the same today.”
He is not wrong. Chemically, those fuels are about
equal. The issue here is his usage of a diesel additive
inside a heating oil. That’s an issue for, if nothing else,
his wallet. Why?
First of all, diesel additives and heating oil additives
have different dosing rates. One diesel additive may
dose at 1:2,500, and a heating oil additive may dose at
1:20,000. However, maybe money isn’t an issue here
(hard to believe). The more troubling aspect of this
dealer’s philosophy is the application for the fuel.
Differences in application
Today’s diesel engines require specific componentry
in the additives they take in. The recipe for additives
almost always includes detergents, lubricity enhancements
and moisture dispersants. ULSD application
needs can vary in many ways, including engine size
(class), work environment and duty-cycle. Lubricity is
paramount for a diesel engine, regardless of what the
vehicle is doing, with all of the parts moving in a violent,
high-heat environment, not to mention the extremely
stringent pounds per square inch (PSI) inside the injector
housing. If someone is using a heating oil additive in
diesel, he/she is not protecting what he/she should be.
Similarly, my dealer friend used a diesel additive
inside his heating oil, believing everything would be fine
since, chemically, these base fuels are the same. Unfortunately,
a Carlin or Beckett burner does not do the
same things that a Cummins or Paccar engine does. The
worlds could not be more different.
Heating oil application needs are tied to the needs
downstream, specific to oil burners and fuel tank storage.
Therefore, the chemical application and strategy for
fuel quality are different. Most heating oil sits for a long
while, inside basement tanks and oil lines for the summer
months, just waiting for the burner to call. What’s
it doing in there? Without an appropriate additive, such
as one focused on stabilization and inhibiting corrosion,
22 ICM/September/October 2019