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Category Archives: Environmental Regulation


A New Jersey paper mill came to Preferred Utilities recently needing a quote for a new burner for their 1961 Preferred Utilities Unit Steam Generator. What is wrong with their existing Preferred burner? Nothing. The plant is being forced to convert from No. 6 heavy fuel oil to natural gas.

Will their next burner last 56+ years? Maybe. It depends on who they buy it from.

Note, Preferred still had the documentation on the existing burner and boiler. But we had to go to 49 year Preferred veteran engineer Ricky Erickson to find it.

This plant needs a Low NOx burner that meets the emissions regulations in New Jersey. Preferred designs and builds burners that can meet the strictest regulations, and provides configurable NOx settings, “future-proofing” them against lower emissions requirements that states may adopt in the coming years.

Built for the environment. Built to last.



Last summer a facility in Texas spilled 3,500 gallons of diesel fuel intended for one of their emergency generators. The fuel was pushed up through a day tank vent, ran across their parking lot, and into a pond adjacent to their property. The clean-up team recovered about 2,100 gallons of fuel out of the pond, but at a cost of about $300,000.

I was called to the site two weeks after the spill and took these pictures of the pond. It’s amazing how resilient nature can be in Texas. The only damage I could see to the pond was browned grass below the waterline. Now, ten months later, the pond appears to have fully recovered.


The generator fueling system for this facility was installed in 2013. From an inspection of the day tanks, all the instrumentation and safety devices met the required NFPA and local fire codes. However, I did not recognize the systems integrator who did the PLC controls. I suspected there was an error in the PLC program exacerbated by a system design that didn’t anticipate something going wrong.


The facility owner brought in a couple of sharp corporate engineers to autopsy the existing controls. They found errors in the PLC programming logic. A level sensor failed, showing a low fuel level in the day tank, so the PLC controls energized supply pumps to re-fill the day tank from the main storage tank. With the level sensor stuck, the PLC controls ignored all the other instrumentation indicating the tank was full, continued pumping fuel, and quickly overfilled the tank. The facility engineers thought the system started pumping fuel at about midnight. Facility staff coming on duty at 7 a.m. smelled diesel fuel, noticed the fuel on the ground, and shut off the pumps.


At first glance, the control sequences for diesel generator fueling systems are not terribly complicated, so local systems integrators are often hired to provide controls for fueling systems. However, to ensure fuel is always available to mission critical emergency generators, and fuel spills are prevented, the Preferred engineers—who specialize in the design of generator fueling systems—try to anticipate every likely failure mode:


–What happens if a level sensor gets stuck?

–What happens if an analog transmitter fails and produces 0 milliamps?

–What should the controls do if a pump fails to prove flow?

–What happens if there is a break in a fuel line, or a tank starts to leak?

–What happens if an operator manually energizes a fuel transfer pump and then goes home?


After supplying so many fueling systems over the years, all of these failures will happen. Regardless of a component failure or operator error, fuel spills are still unacceptable, and the generators still need fuel.


I did boiler controls for twenty years before learning how to design and commission fuel handling systems. NFPA boiler code dictates all the safety devices and sequences required to operate boilers. As a result, at least three separate devices must fail to run the water out of a boiler, or overpressure a boiler. NFPA code for fueling systems is much less specific. In fact, the fuel system that caused the spill at this facility didn’t violate any NFPA fuel handling codes.


In the end, this facility’s Preferred installer and consulting engineer commissioned the new Preferred fuel handling system controls. Commissioning is the process of simulating all the “What happens if…” scenarios described above and verifying the fuel system responds correctly to all imaginable upset conditions.


It’s the last thing we do on every fuel handling project.

David Eoff, BSME, MBA

Preferred Utilities, National Sales Manager


RFO-headerDiscussions of sustainable energy don’t often include food flavorings. However, the same process that creates liquid smoke—the stuff you can buy at the grocery store to add a smoky flavor to just about anything—can produce liquid wood, a very environmentally friendly fuel.

You may not have heard of liquid wood because, until very recently, it was quite difficult to burn effectively. Preferred Utilities Manufacturing changed this.

Liquid smoke is part of a family of products whereby wood is converted from a solid into a liquid. Wood pulp is heated in the absence of oxygen during a process called pyrolysis. This produces bio-oil—or liquid wood.

Unlike petroleum or natural gas, liquid wood fuel is a 100% renewable resource: the wood used to create the fuel can be balanced by replanting new trees. Liquid wood is also carbon efficient because the replanted trees offset carbon emissions, which eliminates the need to purchase separate carbon offsets. As a result, liquid wood is 81 percent more carbon efficient than natural gas, and 88 percent more carbon efficient than petroleum.

Once it’s being properly fed to the burner, liquid wood behaves pretty much just like traditional fuel oils. This means that existing boiler equipment can be retrofitted for use with liquid wood, dramatically decreasing conversion costs compared to other biofuels.Green Oil

So why haven’t we seen the widespread adoption of liquid wood as a fuel oil? After all, the basic chemistry isn’t new—liquid smoke has been around for more than 100 years. Ensyn, an Ontario biofuel firm, has become adept at producing competitively priced liquid wood fuels, but very few companies have been able to offer reliable systems to burn these fuels, and none have been successful in the marketplace—until now.

Ranger-Brochure-ClipOne of the keys to burning liquid wood is the pump system that delivers the fuel to the boiler. Liquid wood has to arrive in the boiler at much higher and more specific pressures than natural gas or petroleum, and because it is highly acidic, the pipes must be high-grade stainless steel. This all requires advanced pumping and monitoring equipment, combined with the engineering chops to put the whole system into place. That’s where Preferred Utilities shines.

As a hybrid engineering/manufacturing firm, Preferred is uniquely equipped to devise and implement customized solutions to help commercial and residential properties including universities, colleges, hospitals, and more convert their boilers to liquid wood. Compared to other biofuels that can’t be retrofitted to existing systems, such as wood chips or pellets, the logistics and upfront investment of converting to liquid wood for heating fuel is quite reasonable.

But handling the fuel is one thing. Burning it? Another thing entirely. We’re talking about a substance that is 25% water with the consistency of lemon juice. Burning it effectively presents a significant challenge. That’s why Preferred Utilities developed the Ranger Combustion System. As of May 2017, Preferred Utilities burners are the only known burners capable of effectively and reliably firing liquid wood. There are several installations in Ohio, Vermont, and Maine currently burning this fuel with Preferred Ranger Burners.


Liquid wood also presents an opportunity to go green quickly. It can take years to transition to carbon neutral, but a liquid wood conversion can be completed in a matter of months. We have found that in many cases this extraordinary fuel source can reduce carbon emissions by about 80 percent. For more information about the potential of using liquid wood at your establishment, contact Preferred Utilities at (203) 743-6741.





Local Law 87 - NYCThe New Paradigm

What does Local Law 87 – and laws like it – mean for you?

With increasing regulatory effort to protect the environment, preserve energy, and reduce carbon emissions, states and cities have taken matters into their own hands by way of local legislation.

New York City’s Local Law 87 (LL87) mandates that buildings over 50,000 gross square feet undergo periodic energy audit and retro-commissioning measures, as part of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan (GGBP).

The intent of this law, and laws like it, is to inform building owners of their energy consumption through energy audits. Energy auditors analyze a building’s energy use and aid in retro-commissioning, which is the process of ensuring correct equipment installation and performance. Ultimately, these audits will help make buildings more efficient.

Why this matters:

Environmental regulations like LL87  make the selection, design and maintenance of modern combustion systems extremely important.

This blog series will educate building owners, operators, and engineers affected by LL87 and laws like it. It will cover the basics of combustion theory, how to properly design a combustion system, and how to effectively control your combustion processes with modern technology.

By the conclusion of this series, you will be armed with the knowledge you need  to make informed decisions regarding your projects and efforts to meet these expected environmental regulatory requirements.

Combustion Terms

Combustion is the process by which the hydrogen and carbon in fuel is combined with oxygen from the air to release heat.

Byproducts include carbon dioxide, water vapor, left-over nitrogen from the air, and possibly unreacted oxygen and/or fuel components.

Combustion Control is the maintenance of the proper fuel and air flows into this process to produce the amount of heat energy required while consuming the least possible fuel and generating the lowest amount of pollution.

The following blog posts will contain further information regarding the combustion process as a whole. Among some of the topics we will cover:

  • Combustion Theory: The Basics
  • Combustion Theory: Variables – Account for variations in oxygen and fuel
  • Combustion Theory: Efficiency – Calculate efficiency and losses
  • Combustion Theory: FGR – See how flue gas recirculation reduces NOx
  • Combustion Theory: Combustion Controls – Learn how cutting-edge tech can cut your emissions
  • Combustion Systems: Design – Basic principles to follow when designing your combustion system
  • Combustion Systems: Troubleshooting: Burner problems and their causes
  • Combustion Control: Strategies – Linkage vs. Linkageless, and why you should care