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NOx limits pose threat to future of oil-heating

Representatives from the oil-heating industry have expressed alarm at European Union (EU) proposals to drastically reduce boiler emissions.


An EU-commissioned report recommends limiting the amount of Nitrous Oxide (NOx) emitted by boilers to around 20 parts per million (ppm), or 40ppm if renewable power generation is also installed. Currently, the best oil-fired boilers in the UK emit some 200ppm of NOx.


The recommendations could form part of new rules being introduced under the directive on the Eco-design of Energy-using Products, known as the EuP directive.


But the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC), which represents the oil-heating sector in the UK and Ireland, says the limits pose a threat to the industry’s future.


It says the technology required to reduce NOx levels by 90 per cent would be incompatible with most British and Irish boilers because they are usually located indoors and in confined spaces such as kitchen cupboards. In the rest of Europe, they are mostly located outdoors or in cellars.


“To produce a burner that would reduce NOx levels, you would have to have a very long piece of equipment, instead of one that is about a foot long,” said OFTEC’s director-general, Jeremy Hawksley. “It is a complete killer in terms of how boilers are configured in the UK and Ireland.”


Mr Hawksley said the proposed limit would force many of the 1.6 million households in the UK and Ireland with oil-fired boilers to switch to electricity or LPG. Oil-fired boilers are often installed in rural properties that have no access to a mains gas supply.

'This would force an enormous amount of capital investment and the cost of running electricity is greater than oil,” he said. “This limitation has been put in by atmosphere purists. NOx is not a nice substance but it doesn’t have any real relevance to the climate change debate.”


NOx accounted for some 6 per cent of the UK’s manmade greenhouse gas emissions in 2004, according to Defra. The vast majority comes from agriculture.


A spokesman for the European Commission said discussions about rules for boiler emissions were at a “very early stage” and could not comment further on the issue. The new rules are due to come into effect at the end of 2008 or next year.


VHK, the Dutch consultancy that produced the report on boiler emissions for the EU, said it was aware of the fact that most British oil-fired boilers are kitchen-based. But spokesman Rene Kemna said: “It’s a political decision for the Commission to make, whether it’s more important that the burners fit in a kitchen cupboard or that

we reduce NOx emissions. You can’t please everyone.”