in the northeast corner of the United States, known as New England, can become
bitterly cold, with temperatures often reaching 40 below Celsius. Therefore,
home heating is a top priority for the region's residents. The struggle to find
an affordable heating supply is becoming more difficult as the price of oil
remains high. Erika Celeste reports from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, that just
as cars are now running on biofuels such as corn-based ethanol or diesel made
from cooking oil, homeowners are now able to turn to Bioheat to keep warm.
Early last winter, Shannon Hill came home to discover the siding on her white
house was turning yellow and melting.
actually had a significant uncontrolled fire in my system due to petroleum
sludge build up," she says, explaining that the oily deposits in her
furnace had caught on fire.
that point, she'd never given much thought to what she used to heat her home.
Then her furnace technician suggested she try something called Bioheat from a
local supplier, Simply Green. The small
company provides renewable fuels for both homes and transportation.
Owner Andrew Kellar admits it was difficult to attract customers at first
because of the misconception that people would have to modify their heating
systems or vehicles to use Bioheat and biofuel.
that uses traditional oil to heat their homes can use the Bioheat product that
we have," he says. "It's nothing more than a blend of traditional
home heating oil with this biofuel that gets blended in. Shows up in a
traditional looking oil truck.
no modifications to their home heating system that they have to do. It actually
helps the systems to run more efficiently."
fact, he points out, Bioheat in its purest form has a solvent characteristic
that helps improve the efficiency of a heating system – something regular home
heating oil doesn't have.
month after her first fill-up with Bioheat, Shannon Hill checked her furnace
fuel tank. The needle had barely budged. Thinking there must be some mistake,
she tapped her gauge to see if it was broken. But the reading was accurate. Her
furnace had burned less than half the usual amount of fuel.
saw a significant decrease in fuel consumption. I didn't do anything different
- no insulation, no new roof, no nothing other than switch," she marvels.
"Not only do I feel better about it financially, but obviously
environmentally, it was my main reason in calling."
Derived From Waste Products
Simply Green has a firm commitment to use non-food sources for
its fuel. These days, the company's so-called feedstock comes from animal fats
that would simply go to waste, as well as used restaurant grease and a variety
of soy products. But Kellar says they're also looking at a new source: algae.
part of a group up here in New Hampshire researching algae as the feedstock.
Algae has become a really great answer to the whole 'food-for-fuel'
thing," he explains. "It is grown on land where you couldn't grow
food. You could grow it on top of a landfill or land that's not set up for
hectare of algae could produce hundreds of times more oil that a hectare of
corn, and a number of companies around the country are working on technology to
make algae a commercially viable fuel feedstock.
Community Also Helps Business
Hill was so impressed with her Bioheat experience that she went to work for
Simply Green doing public relations and marketing.
months after she started, three home heating oil suppliers in the neighboring
state of Maine went out of business due to rising oil prices. Because they
could not honor their contracts, more than 300 customers who had paid in
advance for deliveries were literally left out in the cold.
recalls reading about the plight of these people, including a woman and her two
children who were completely out of oil and had nowhere to go.
had spent upwards of $1,200, and she was out and couldn't afford to refill her
tank," Hill says.
brought the article to Kellar and asked if the company could do anything to
decided to sell Simply Green's fuels to the other companies' customers at cost.
Though it was out of their customer service area, he found a way to get all the
fuel up to Maine. As word of what he wanted to do spread, Simply Green's phone
began ringing off the hook with calls from people who wanted to help deliver
it, as well as sign up for Bioheat.
were just doing it because we felt as a business we should be helping people in
our community," he reports. "The amount of exposure and excitement
that we got was beyond our wildest dreams."
company's customer base jumped to 800 clients, up from just 100 one year
and Simply Green's good deed did not go unnoticed by the government, either.
The state of Maine recently honored the company with its Environmental Hero
Recognizes Need to Protect Environment for Next Generation
Kellar says he's always been interested in the environment, but until he and
his wife adopted three children earlier this year, he never really realized
just how much of an impact he could have.
didn't hit home before, but when children come to you – by birth or adoption –
it really opens your eyes up to what's going to be left behind 10, 15, 20 years
from now," he says.
November, Simply Green will open its first local biofuel station and
convenience store. Kellar's goal is to open three or four more stations around
New England over the next two years in a continuing effort to make biofuels a
more mainstream energy source.
Green is an example of what's to come in the alternative energy field," he
says. "We're in a very traditional industry, but what we're trying to do
is to put a new twist and look to a very old-school way of thinking, from the
type of products we're offering to the way we deliver those products to the way
we operate our business to the way we give back to the community. We just want
to put a new look on the face of oil."
He adds, happily, it looks like
he's well on the way to reaching all those goals.