As winter comes to an end and we start moving into the warmer spring months, most people aren't thinking about their heating oil levels or when they need to place an order to replenish the supply the used during the cold winter months. Today, companies transport more than 3.2 billion gallons of heating oil to homes in the Northeast every single year. Where does all that heating oil come from and how does it get to your house?
Where Does Heating Oil Come From?
Heating oil is different than what you might use to grease a squeaky wheel or to keep your engine running smoothly, but it all comes from the same sources. Petroleum is mined in the form of crude oil which is found in underground lakes and oil fields. These can be on land or deep beneath the surface of the ocean. Either way, they're mined and the crude oil is sent to processing plants to be turned into the various things that we use every single day that are all made from petroleum.
Once it's been mined, the crude oil moves on to processing plants.
Processing Petroleum Into Heating Oil
Heating oil can come from one of two sources: domestic and international oil refineries. Most of the heating oil sold in the United States comes from domestic refineries, but it can be imported as well. If it is imported, heating oil comes from Canada, the US Virgin Islands, and Venezuela.
Imports are designed to supplement domestic production. Refineries and heating oil companies build up their supply during the spring and summer months to prepare for the increased demand during fall and winter.
Storage and Transportation
Once the crude petroleum is converted into heating oil, it's taken and stored until it's needed. When the weather starts to cool off, companies that supply the majority of the heating oil that keeps homes in the Northeast warm can start transporting the material to individual homes and businesses. In most cases, the oil is sent to a large central distribution area by rail or barge. From there, it can be dispensed into smaller trucks and sent the last mile to consumer properties.
What Affects Heating Oil Transportation
While it's a good idea to call in your heating oil order before you're going to need it to keep your house warm, there are some conditions that could delay or even cancel your delivery. Wildfires or storms that make it dangerous to travel to an area — especially if you're driving a truck that's filled with a flammable substance — could necessitate cancellation or delay.
Poor road conditions, power outages that shut down pumping equipment, fuel leaks, flooding, snow, and ice or frozen equipment could all delay your delivery. If you don't make sure that you're ordering your fuel oil before the situation becomes an emergency, you could spend quite a few days in the cold while you wait for it to be safe for a delivery truck to reach you.
Make it a point to order your heating oil before it's an emergency. Your local delivery company may have the supplies that you need on hand but if conditions mean that it's not safe to deliver it to you, you might find yourself out in the cold.