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What Does the “B” Number in Biofuel Mean?


If you have heating oil delivered to your Ithaca-area home or business, you probably know that New York State has mandated that all fuel oil sold must be Bioheat® – the industry’s branded name for fuel that contains a blend of ultra-low-sulfur heating oil and renewable biodiesel.

What you might not know is that not all Bioheat is the same.

While all heating oil sold in NY must be Bioheat, the percentage of biodiesel that the fuel contains can vary from one supplier to another by as much as 15 percent – and that difference will cost you in more ways than one.

We’ll explain.

All Bioheat sold anywhere in the country is designated with a “B” number, which indicates the percentage of biodiesel contained in the fuel blend. For example, a blend that includes five percent biodiesel is called “B5,” while a blend that includes 10 percent biodiesel is called B10. New York State requires a minimum biodiesel content of five percent in all heating oil sold; the highest blend currently on the market is B20 (which is the Bioheat blend percentage we sell here at Ehrhart Energy).

Here’s the problem: Some local heating oil companies say they offer B20 Bioheat when their blend could actually include as little as the five percent biodiesel minimum!

That fifteen percent difference is a big deal for several reasons: for one thing, a blend with less biodiesel won’t burn as efficiently. For another, the environmental performance of your heating system will suffer.

But perhaps the most significant impact of that fifteen percent difference will come tax time: If your fuel is a true B20 blend, you’ll receive a 20¢-per-gallon state tax credit from New York State. If it isn’t, you will only get a credit for the percentage of biodiesel contained in your fuel!

Buyer beware! Learn more about Bioheat basics here, and about NY State’s Clean heating fuel credit here. And remember: Ehrhart offers honest-to-goodness B20 Bioheat blend to customers in our Finger Lakes service area. Contact us today to join the Ehrhart family!