Liquid fuel sector is working to build evidence base for lobbying the government to consider biofuels as a viable and cost-effective ‘drop-in’ replacement for kerosene to heat inefficient homes  

A UK biofuels strategy set to launch either this year or in 2023 will be vital to determining if there is a future for liquid fuel heat, according to OFTEC.

The oil heating body said that ongoing trials of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) are intended to build an evidence base for biofuels as a lower carbon, efficient alternative to fuels such as kerosene that are used in certain properties off the gas grid.

The delayed Heat and Buildings Strategy, which was published by the government last year, said that the adoption of biofuels for the purpose of off-grid heating was among several different technology solutions being considered as helping decarbonise homes.  However, the strategy said at the time that the government viewed biofuels as having some significant limitations that risked undermining its suitability as a lower carbon solution due to issues around the sustainability of supply. Further research around the economies of biofuels for heat were therefore needed, according to the strategy.

Malcolm Farrow, head of public affairs with OFTEC, said the body was now waiting for the government to release a separate strategy for biofuels either in 2022 or 2023 to set out whether it is considering the possibility of using products such as HVO to heat certain types of homes.

He said, “This strategy will obviously be quite important in really showing how they think the biofuels sector is going to evolve and it could provide a clear sign of whether they are supportive of what we do or not.”

‘Drop in’ replacement

HVOs are described by the trade group as a ‘drop in’ replacement that can run in existing boilers with a well-maintained tank and a few minor modifications to the system.

Mr Farrow argued that the industry was in the process of building up research to push for ensuring biofuels can be considered as a viable solution to low carbon heat with the cost of converting existing liquid fuel boilers estimated at around £500.

He added, “We really feel that the government is missing a trick by seeing other technologies such as HVO as something you might do as a last resort if a heat pump won’t work. We think they really should be adopting a technology neutral approach and working to make sure you get the best fit and best outcome for each household.”

“If that turns out to be a heat pump, then that is absolutely fine, and we would completely support that. But if it’s say an older off-grid property that is going to be expensive to convert then it surely makes more sense to go and convert a boiler, if it is a boiler, to run on a low carbon liquid fuel.”

OFTEC argued that it is possible to achieve up to a 90 per cent reduction on carbon emissions for heating when switching from a boiler running on existing fuels such as kerosene to HVO.

Industry-funded demonstrations are presently underway to build up data to lobby the government to consider including and supporting HVO in its heat decarbonisation plans. OFTEC claimed that initial feedback from the trials, started over a year ago, were proving a real-world demonstration that HVO could be a viable fossil free liquid fuel.

Almost 100 properties have so far been converted to run on HVO as part of these trails across a range of different property types such as older Victorian houses and school buildings and pubs.

The trade body said it was presently targeting extending these trials to around 150 – 170 properties buildings over the course of 2022 with the ongoing support of fuel distributors.


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