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RI heating oil vs gas prices and upcoming biodiesel mandate

random12345 Member Posts: 469
The RI state website tracks average weekly heating oil prices going back to 2000. EIA tracks the average residential gas price for RI. Here is what I came up with for heating oil prices in $/gallon, (oil price in $/therms) and natural gas prices in $/therm for each heating season the last 6 years:

Heating Season Oct-Mar price/gallon, (oil price in therms), gas price/therm:
2017-2018: $2.76 ($2.00) $1.45
2018-2019: $2.99 ($2.16) $1.53
2019-2020: $2.62 ($1.90) $1.44
2020-2021: $2.29 ($1.66) $1.53
2021-2022: $3.61 ($2.62) $1.70
2022-2023: $4.76 ($3.45) $1.94

NG prices only for non-heating season Apr-Sep $/therm:
2017: $1.67
2018: $2.08
2019: $1.83
2020: $1.77
2021: $1.89
2022: $2.08



Based on all of that, it looks like gas is significantly cheaper, especially during the heating season when people are using more of it, which seems counterintuitive, and is the opposite of what happens for us in the Boston area. Does anyone know why?

RI will apparently mandate increasing amounts of biodiesel in heating oil in the coming years. It's at 5% now, but will increase to 10% by July 2023, 15% in 2025, and 50% in 2030. Putting aside the morality of this policy, there are 138,490 Btus/gallon in ultra low sulfur diesel (B0), but only 127,960 Btus/gallon of biodiesel (B100), so by 2030 oil consumers get 3.43% fewer btus/gallon than they are today. That largely wipes out efficiency gains relative to gas from more efficient oil boilers like the Megasteam.

What I'm also wondering is whether or not the biodiesel mandate may increase the price of heating oil further relative to gas? The average nationwide price of B20 has been less than diesel for years but B100 costs more than both.




  • Ollie_Hopnoodle
    Ollie_Hopnoodle Member Posts: 73
    Did you take these RI Energy natural gas distribution charges into account when determining the comparative cost? I recently paid $2.87 a gallon for heating oil. Delivered, no extra charges.

    Residential HeatingCustomer Charge
    LIHEAP Enhancement charge
    Peak Distribution Charge
    Distribution Adj Charge
    Energy Efficiency Programs charge
  • random12345
    random12345 Member Posts: 469
    edited May 2023
    The current gas rates can be found here: https://rienergy.com/media/ri-energy/pdfs/billing-and-payments/rie6164_rigas_firm_rates.pdf


    I believe the peak rate is Oct-Apr, and off-peak is May-Sep. Unless you qualify for the low income rate, as of April, the residential heating rate was $1.8146/therm, and as of May, it is $1.753/therm. I actually called RI Energy and National Grid in MA, and unfortunately, they don't publish or even make available historical gas rates, so you have to ask RIPUC, and I didn't want to go through the hassle of navigating their website.

    According to GREET (https://greet.es.anl.gov/greet_excel_model.models), the heat content of a gallon of ultra low sulfur diesel is 138,490 BTU/gallon, and biodiesel is 127,960 BTU/gallon. RI mandates B5, so it's heat content is 136,953.5/BTU/gallon. $2.87/1.369535 = $2.08/therm for heating oil. RI Energy also charges $14.79/month so that's an additional $177.48/yr. So at those prices, gas is only slightly less expensive, but you also have to factor in the annual maintenance cost for oil burner, and optionally heating oil spill insurance for the tank.

    Down the line though, as the biodiesel content increases, I'm not sure how this will impact prices, that's why I wrote the post. Gas costs are also likely to increase because of pipeline constraints in the northeast, growing population, increased electrification of heating and transportation, etc. For me personally, I would not stay with oil because I don't want to consume biodiesel if I have a choice.
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,472
    Do oil burners need to be readjusted when you jump from one blend to another.
    How does a customer know exactly what blend they are actually getting?

    Back when they changed the BTU content of NG we retuned and added a colored sticker to the equipment indicating it was calibrated for the new mixture.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • random12345
    random12345 Member Posts: 469
    Beckett's new AFG burner which apparently comes standard with the Megasteam is now rated for B100.

  • random12345
    random12345 Member Posts: 469
    Unlike in MA, the percentage of RI households using fuel oil seems to have remained stable or only dipped slightly between 2014-2021: https://data.census.gov/table?g=040XX00US44&tid=ACSDP5Y2021.DP04. It's around 29%. Households using electricity grew from 9.7% to 11.6%. Gas households remained essentially unchanged at 53%.
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,547
    hot_rod said:

    Do oil burners need to be readjusted when you jump from one blend to another.
    How does a customer know exactly what blend they are actually getting?

    Back when they changed the BTU content of NG we retuned and added a colored sticker to the equipment indicating it was calibrated for the new mixture.

    https://www.indoorcomfortmarketing.com/ul-liquid-fuel-burner-safety-standard-now-includes-up-to-b100-biodiesel-blends/#:~:text=UL296 is the standard developed by Underwriters Laboratories,for use with biodiesel blends up to B20.

    No adjustment needed assuming it's properly adjusted to begin with. The stoichiometric CO2 difference between #2 and B100 is 3/10th percent.
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