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OFTEC sets out research on reduced carbon oil heating

Trade body has argued that solutions such as a 100 per cent biofuel can ensure a more cost efficient, lower carbon approach to oil heating homes such as rural properties

OFTEC has published new research on liquid biofuels that it argues highlights their potential as a lower cost solution to reduce carbon emissions from homes heated by oil.

A study undertaken by the organisation over a six-month period concluded that two variations of fuels, a 100 per cent pure biofuel and a 30 per cent blend of kerosene and Fatty acid methyl esters (FAME), offered an efficient alternative to existing liquid gas.

Findings from the study were presented during the trade body’s annual conference this week that also saw the appointment of Laurance Coey, MD of Harlequin Manufacturing, to the role of organisation Chair.

The event detailed independent analysis commissioned by OFTEC to look at the viability of products that could replace kerosene for heating. This considered feedstocks, sustainability, supply chains, as well as supporting policy and technology required to support such a shift in fuels.

The organisation also commissioned research into homes that are heated by oil at present in England to help inform future policy on transforming off-grid housing.

OFTEC chief executive Paul Rose said that the results from the biofuel study were important following the recent government announcement that it was intending to realise ‘net zero’ carbon emission by 2050.

Mr Rose said that it was vital for the entirety of the HVAC industry to push itself harder to meet the net zero aims.

He said, “The liquid fuel heating industry has the potential to play a pivotal role in decarbonising rural homes. These research findings show that biofuels offer the most cost-effective solution for this hard-to-treat sector.”

“Government and all sector players must now get behind biofuels and make this option a reality to secure a sustainable future for off-grid consumers and industry alike.”

Mr Rose said that the findings indicated a 100 per cent biofuels solution offered the lowest cost and highest impact solution when compared to other options. The solution cost on average £166 per tonne of carbon saved (£/t). By comparison, a 30 per cent blend of biofuel and kerosene was costed at £204/ t.

Mr Rose added the biofuels represented a clear and viable future for oil heating as the UK pushes towards meeting its next zero aims.

He said, “The next step will be to develop ‘pathway options’ for government, detailing how and when industry will develop and roll out low carbon liquid fuels. Field trials will also begin to confirm the performance of biofuels and we will further step up our communication with government and stakeholders to secure recognition and support for this compelling solution.”

Home improvements

OFTEC added that its research has found that homes already using oil heating systems were largely older, detached properties that could be made more efficient through fabric improvements that could include cavity wall and loft insulation.

From a cost perspective, deeper improvements such as floor and solid wall insulation of properties would cost roughly 50 per cent more than improvements such as double glazing, but also ensure a more substantial reduction in heat demand, according to OFTEC.

Mr Rose said the findings highlighted the challenge in preventing rural properties from “leaking heat” in order to ensure more effective decarbonisation of UK homes from both a cost and policy perspective.

He said, “There is no way around the fact that this is going to be a vast and costly exercise, so government support will be vital to encourage consumer action”.

“This is particularly true for those on lower incomes and given the higher rates of fuel poverty in rural areas, we must all ensure the transition to low carbon heat is fair, practical and as affordable as possible.”

The HVAC sector is facing a huge number of questions on how best to heat homes, with the government having vowed to end the practice of allowing appliances that run on fossil fuels in new build homes by 2025.

This has led to contrasting views from different companies on the best possible future for lower carbon heat, with heat pump manufacturers arguing that electric systems are well placed to meet government needs.

Malcolm Farrow, head of communications for OFTEC, said that the level of change to homes that would be required to meet net zero standards posed significant cost challenges that needed to be addressed.

He said, “That’s why, given the pressures on household budgets - particularly for those on lower incomes - and higher rates of fuel poverty in rural locations, we must ensure the transition to low carbon heat is fair, practical and as affordable as possible.”

Mr Farrow added that any potential lower carbon options to power domestic heating would have to account for off-grid properties in the country, which included a high proportion of older, more poorly insulated homes.

He added, “We must also consider the needs of consumers and limit adverse impacts such as high cost and significant upheaval. This has been an essential missing ingredient in heat decarbonisation strategies to date.”

“The research confirms OFTEC’s long held view that transitioning rural properties to a low carbon liquid fuel offers the most cost effective, practical and futureproof solution going forward.”

OFTEC’s comments follow a series of events it has hosted in several UK cities focused on the issue of energy efficiency and fuel poverty in the push towards realising low carbon homes.

Hundreds of architects, engineers, consultants and local authority officials attending the group’s Low Carbon Homes forums to look at potential options to address challenges facing the HVAC sector.

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