Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fuel oil is the next whale oil

With volatile crude oil prices, oil burners are bound to go the way of the Dodo.

Home heating oil, once a Northeast U.S. and Eastern Canadian mainstay for powering boilers, furnaces and hot water heaters is now becoming a thing of the past. Most people from this area (over 30) can remember a house they've lived in, with a giant oil tank stinking up the basement; the oil truck coming every month or two in the winter; the oil man trudging through the snow to keep your house warm. It seems the cards have been stacked against oil burners for the past 15 years and natural gas is rapidly taking it's place.

Home heating oil (HHI) is known in North America as No. 2 Heating oil: similar but different from diesel and kerosene. Although far from extinct, homes and commercial buildings once fired by fuel oil are rapidly being converted to high efficiency natural gas systems. With oil and gas reserves being discovered and exploited from New York to Montana, the oil reserves are PRIORITY ONE, because oil is more profitable. As a result, natural gas has to play second fiddle and in North Dakota, 2011: 30% of all natural gas produced was burned off as waste.

But, just like the whales, killed for their oil rich blubber, hunting petroleum oil will soon be a part of history, supplanted by modern energy: cleaner, renewable and sustainable sources (solar, geological, wind, etc). But the petroleum whale won't die easy.