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Reduce carbon emissions with bio-liquid fuel

Out with the old and in with the new. The government wasted no time after the election making new policy statements, including the announcement of a new Energy Bill for 2010.

As yet, the details are unclear, but what is certain is that we will have more legislation designed to improve energy efficiency in British homes and businesses and to promote low carbon energy production.

One of the items eagerly awaited by the heating industry is the full content of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

Due to be introduced from spring next year, the RHI would incentivise both energy suppliers and households to become more efficient by using a ‘pay as you save’ approach. However, there is still some uncertainty about exactly what will and what won’t be included.

What we do know is that Oftec has worked extremely hard to get bio-liquid heating fuel included in the RHI. A blend of 30 per cent fatty acid methyl ester (Fame) manufactured from waste cooking oil, and 70 per cent kerosene has been proven to reduce carbon emissions by 28 per cent compared to conventional kerosene which is currently used by the majority of households on oil.

Field trials carried out in Norfolk last year used this B30k blend to replace kerosene with no adverse effects. About 25 sites including households and businesses were able to switch over to B30k using their existing heating equipment, with very minor modifications. The trials also included several other blends of kerosene and gas oil.

The implications are huge in that 1.8 million customers in the UK and Ireland could easily switch over to a lower carbon fuel, without having to replace their existing heating systems. Businesses could benefit too from the switch to bio-liquid heating fuel with minimum capital expenditure.

Oftec believes that 90 per cent of existing oil customers could transfer to bio-liquid by 2020.

However, the amount of incentive is key. Under the original RHI proposals, bio-liquid users would be eligible for grant payments over a 15-year period. This is the minimum level of incentive needed to make bio-liquid economically viable for end users.

Otherwise, oil users - many of whom are in rural areas - will be disadvantaged, and the government will be missing out on a big opportunity to reduce carbon emissions.

The new fuel will be officially launched at the Oil and Renewable Heating Show at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on 28 to 29 October.

Once details of the RHI are confirmed, pilot distribution trials will go ahead in two geographical areas, meaning households and businesses can reduce their carbon footprint overnight.

Jeremy Hawksley is director general of the Oil Firing Technical Association