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Oil to Gas Conversion CO and CO2 concerns

D107D107 Member Posts: 1,724
My municipality is promoting that everyone on oil fuel convert to gas, primarily for cost savings and 'clean fuel.' While we already have gas, my questions would be these:
1. A town committeemember states: "...Using natural gas for heating instead of fuel cuts carbon dioxide from boilers and furnaces by about one-third, while providing the same heat output..." Is this true?
2. A tech once told me that from a CO risk point of view, oil is superior in that there will be better warning signs of combustion problems than with gas, which will suddenly show a CO spike. If this is true then switching to gas may make it even more urgent for everyone to comply with the law and install CO detectors, and buying the ones at big box stores which alarm at quite high a reading may pose some new dangers that weren't as serious as with oil.
3. I feel that savings may be temporary once the infrastructure costs kick in for new gas lines and replacement of old ones.
4. I have seen estimates as high as 10% loss to the atmosphere of gas through supply line leaks, which would make gas not as clean a fuel as it appears.
5. Natural gas prices decreased a few years ago, but oil has also decreased tremendously in the last year and a half. Is oil right now possibly cheaper than gas, even considering the lesser efficiency of Bio-Fuel?
6. Any thoughts on electric utility savings by also using gas for hot water heating, cooking and clothes driers?
7. I certainly see the benefit of not having to have an oil tank, either outside below or above ground or inside the house would be a benefit.

I'd like to know what the pros think on this.

Comments

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 14,872
    Not a heating pro -- but I've been studying and analysing fuels professionally as an engineer/scientist for the last 50 years or so...

    So. In my judgement,
    1. This statement is true. However, the gain isn't as much, overall, as might be imagined since there are problems with fugitive methane (natural gas) leaks from wells. But on the whole, yeah, OK.
    2. I'd say this one is true, too. What this overlooks is the extreme hazard from gas leaks. Unlike fuel oil, which makes a mess, leaking gas makes very loud noises. If I had gas, I might want not only very good CO detectors, but gas detectors.
    3. Again, in my judgement quite true. Particularly in New England and New York, as power generation switches to gas there will be a need for additional transmission lines, which cost real money -- even when you get over the NIMBY's.
    4. There is a fugitive emission problem, but mostly from the wells themselves. Not that this isn't a problem -- it is, as noted in 1. above. I might add that methane is a much more powerful global warming gas than carbon dioxide, pound for pound.
    5. Depends on where you are.
    6. This absolutely is true, and always has been. If you don't have gas, electric clothes driers are the only option (at least I've never seen an oil fired clothes drier...) other than sunshine. But fuel driven -- gas or oil -- water heaters are far better than electric ones, in terms of overall energy use (you do have to account for the inefficiency of the generators, after all). Solar, if the sun shines, is a good booster/preheater, though.
    7. I have never had a problem with oil tanks, provided that they are maintained and monitored. Others may differ. Gas transmission lines have to be maintained and monitored, too, and the record of the utilities and contractors is a little spotty.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.
    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    David107 said:

    A town committee member states: "...Using natural gas for heating instead of fuel cuts carbon dioxide from boilers and furnaces by about one-third, while providing the same heat output..." Is this true?

    Close -- more like 27.5%.
    A tech once told me that from a CO risk point of view, oil is superior in that there will be better warning signs of combustion problems than with gas, which will suddenly show a CO spike.
    Horsepucky. NG requires far less maintenance (but not zero as many would have you believe.) Either can kill you if things go wrong. The vast majority of oil burners are not fully and properly serviced.
    I feel that savings may be temporary once the infrastructure costs kick in for new gas lines and replacement of old ones.
    It depends. How old are the lines in your neighborhood? Ours were replaced/updated about six years ago and our NG prices are the lowest I've seen in decades.
    I have seen estimates as high as 10% loss to the atmosphere of gas through supply line leaks, which would make gas not as clean a fuel as it appears.
    Plenty of debate about that right now, especially in areas where NG is produced. Expect more taxing or fining of the leakers going forward. Oil leaks out of tanks and pipelines too.
    Natural gas prices decreased a few years ago, but oil has also decreased tremendously in the last year and a half. Is oil right now possibly cheaper than gas, even considering the lesser efficiency of Bio-Fuel?
    Due to oil's overwhelming dominance of the transportation fuel market and the ease of shipping or trucking it without pressurization, it will likely continue to carry a price premium (on a per-BTU basis) for some time going forward.
    Any thoughts on electric utility savings by also using gas for hot water heating, cooking and clothes driers?
    Unless you happen to live near a hydroelectric dam, NG will almost certainly cost less than electric resistance heat.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 14,192
    SWEI said:

    The vast majority of oil burners are not fully and properly serviced.

    This, and the possibility of leaking tanks contaminating ground water, are the two biggest issues with oil.

    Properly handled, there's nothing wrong with oil heat. But consistently poor servicing gives it a bad rap.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 14,872
    Steamhead said:

    SWEI said:

    The vast majority of oil burners are not fully and properly serviced.

    This, and the possibility of leaking tanks contaminating ground water, are the two biggest issues with oil.

    Properly handled, there's nothing wrong with oil heat. But consistently poor servicing gives it a bad rap.
    So true -- and brings up the whole can of worms known as perception of risk. People get their knickers in an awful knot when they think about oil contaminated ground water (and, if it's on your property, it is expensive, I'll grant you) but somehow comparing that with a service connection coming loose and blowing up a couple of houses and half a dozen people -- which happens three or four times a year, at least... people don't seem to mind blowing themselves and others up (refer to another thread, a DIY gas fitter, currently running). Go figure.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.
    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,492
    I'd bet that more homes are lost to woodstoves and fireplaces. The vast majority of homes in the U.S. are heated with NG. You have to use care, and make sure all the safety devices are installed and functioning . The piping has to be installed properly and checked, but there is really no need to be afraid of it.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 14,872
    Paul48 said:

    I'd bet that more homes are lost to woodstoves and fireplaces. The vast majority of homes in the U.S. are heated with NG. You have to use care, and make sure all the safety devices are installed and functioning . The piping has to be installed properly and checked, but there is really no need to be afraid of it.

    Oh quite. Nothing like an inadequately maintained wood stove and stove pipe to set things alight, and it does happen. Airtight stoves are particular villains, unless they are treated properly -- and fed the correct wood.

    But as you say -- no need to be afraid of wood, or oil, or gas, or electricity -- provided they are properly installed and maintained.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.
    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 11,477
    Our first few months in our home we had our oil burner set off a CO detector due to a plugged \ restricted flue.

    Personally, I'd trust a properly set up NG burner more. That's what I've been running since that CO alarm went off. I didn't switch because of that, there were many reasons but one of the big ones, was oil sucks in my opinion. It's an unnecessary smelly pain in the butt and good luck trying to find someone that actually cleans and services the boiler and burner properly.

    If I moved to a more rural area and couldn't install NG, I'd likely do propane over oil.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment

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