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Government relying on limited data to create rural heat decarbonisation policy

Jul 28, 2020, 10:33 AM by OFTEC
Government’s current reluctance to support renewable liquid fuels as part of the UK’s green heat agenda is based on flawed evidence, according to the initial outcomes of widespread field trials.

Data from an ongoing European project¹ testing various renewable liquid fuel options across 100 sites, shows that Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) - a sustainable, fossil free fuel derived from waste - can provide a drop-in replacement for kerosene for oil heated homes.

This means little or no modification of existing oil heating systems and tanks is required for use with HVO which is already available across the UK. The trials also show that HVO can be blended with heating oil in varying degrees without issue so could be seamlessly introduced to the domestic heating market.

These findings directly contradict those of a report² produced for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) by bioeconomy consultants NNFCC, which fails to consider HVO for use in heat.

Among the inaccuracies included, the NNFCC report states that, "If systems are to use blends above 30% biodiesel … converting oil-fired boilers would be more costly and complex and would most likely require a new dedicated boiler and storage tank."

The report goes on to say, "Technology availability is likely to constrain the rate of growth in bioliquid boilers, as dedicated component parts, tanks and ancillaries are not yet widely deployed or commercially available at competitive prices in the domestic sector." The use of HVO again invalidates these claims.

Paul Rose, OFTEC CEOOFTEC CEO Paul Rose comments: "Outcomes of the renewable liquid fuel trials across Europe so far are highly encouraging and the use of HVO in particular directly addresses the compatibility issues raised in the NNFCC report to BEIS.

"If 'evidence' like this is the foundation of government decision making, it is unacceptably misleading and fails to provide the full picture. We have working proof that the right type of renewable liquid fuel can offer a simple, cost effective, drop-in solution for rural homes which are often particularly expensive and challenging to decarbonise."

HVO, commonly known as renewable or biodiesel, is produced by hydroprocessing used cooking oils (UCOs). Equally, any new renewable liquid fuel introduced to the market would be manufactured from recycled waste materials or crop residues and certified as fully sustainable, so there is no adverse impact on the environment.  Supply has also been cited as an issue with renewable liquid fuels for heat but as demand for these fuels is increasing, so is the supply of waste materials used for manufacture.

Biodiesel is already used in large quantities for road transport and, as electric vehicles become more common, surplus raw material can be diverted to produce renewable heating oil. New manufacturing innovations are also likely to revolutionise the industry, further increasing supply and driving down costs.

Paul Rose continues: "Limited supplies of HVO are currently on the market and, with clear policy support, industry will have the confidence to invest in expanding production further.

"UK government needs to fully consider this real-world evidence on renewable liquid fuels and re-think heat policy to support this option alongside the narrow range of low carbon heat solutions currently backed.

"Broadening out the choices available to homeowners is the only way to create a competitive market and reduce cost, which is currently the main barrier to consumer take up of clean heat solutions."

OFTEC has launched a new campaign for the inclusion of renewable liquid fuels in heat decarbonisation strategy and continues to work with governments in the UK and Republic of Ireland to challenge the current agenda.   

¹Field trials run by the European Heating Industry (ehi) and European Oil Heating Association Eurofuel

²NFCC Evidence Gathering for Off-Gas Grid Bioliquid Heating Options May 2019

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