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Lower carbon liquid fuel challenge dominates 2018 OFTEC conference

Association’s latest annual event sees calls for rethink of government decarbonisation strategy to consider potential innovations in liquid fuel to meet off-grid heating needs

Pushing the potential for new lower carbon liquid fuels that can help meet the UK government’s environmental ambitions for off-grid heating was a key focus of OFTEC’s 2018 annual conference that was held in this week in Tewkesbury.

Current progress around pushing for liquid fuel to be considered by government among its preferred solutions to decarbonise heat over the coming decades was outlined by a number of guest speakers from around Europe.

OFTEC chief executive Paul Rose told delegates gathered at the annual event on Tuesday (June 19) that the organisation was planning a focus on upgrading 400,000 older and inefficient boilers in England and Wales with new technology. The association argued that initial carbon reduction benefits from the strategy could then be built upon once a low carbon liquid fuel alternative to kerosene becomes available.

A working group made up of representatives from OFTEC and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to focus on off-grid heating has been established and held a first meeting last month. At the same time, the association said it had been working with equipment manufacturers to undertake performance tests on low carbon liquid fuel blends, as well as 100 per cent biofuel solutions.

Review calls

Mr Rose said that its members and the liquid fuel industry backed government efforts to curb carbon emissions through plans such as its Clean Growth Strategy, but asked for a review of current policy on how heating in rural properties that are off the grid is achieved.

He said, “Over the past year OFTEC has been working hard to progress a low carbon liquid fuel solution which offers a realistic, practical alternative to the current options on the table for off-grid homes which are not fit for purpose.”

“Now is the time for our industry to unite, step up and act collectively to meet the significant opportunity decarbonisation brings. This means everyone from installers and manufacturers to fuel suppliers and refiners playing their part. Much progress has been made to date, and against an undeniably challenging backdrop, but we need to keep this positive momentum going and deliver a futureproof solution that works for consumers and government alike.”

Other speakers at the conference included Richard Vianello, deputy director for Renewable Heat Incentive in buildings with BEIS, who set out current government thinking on policy.

Dr Ernst-Moritz Bellingen of the German Institute for Heating and Oil Technology (IWO) also spoke at the event and detailed current work in the field of low carbon liquid production, according to OFTEC.

Niall Faye of Grant Engineering, who serves as OFTEC’s current Chair, discussed the current alternative solutions for off-grid heating. This notably included looking at heat pumps and the role they are expected to play in supporting lower carbon focuses.

Mr Faye argued that issues of poor thermal efficiency in many rural homes and the perceived failure of the Renewable Heat Incentive programme created a number of challenges in retrofitting heat pumps into these properties.

He concluded, “More cost-effective options must be found and this means a crucial role for low carbon liquid fuels going forward. By drawing together the strengths of our innovative industry, I am confident we will be able to produce an alternative fuel to power off-grid boilers well into the future.”

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