One of the most urgent and critical risks of modern society is climate change. The Clean Growth Strategy was published by the government of the United Kingdom in 2017. The goal is to decarbonise the economy of the United Kingdom to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas a minimum of 80 percent by the year 2050. Due to the Committee for Climate Change, the new goal of zero emissions by 2050 has been announced.
Participation from every sector is required to meet this new goal. One of the hardest areas to decrease is the heating sector. An important part of the solution is low carbon, sustainable liquid fuels. This is the cheapest, easiest and cleanest option for the 1.5 million homes in the United Kingdom reliant on oil heating.
Oil Heating Statistics
Approximately 5.6 percent of the 26.4 million homes in the United Kingdom have not been connected to gas heating. Between 200,000 and 250,000 businesses in rural areas are using oil heating. Other than Northern Ireland, the majority of homes using oil heating are mostly in rural areas. The homes consist of all ages, types of construction, materials and designs.
Some of the owners are preserving the period features, while others are located in protected areas with planning constraints. According to an analysis, homes in England reliant on oil heat have the following features.
- 51 percent are larger than average and detached
- 97 percent are EPC Band D-G, the average is Band E
- 46 percent were built with single-skinned walls prior to 1919
- 47 percent contain heating systems a minimum of 12 years old with 65 to 85 percent less energy efficiency in comparison to modern condensing boilers.
Social and Economic Impact
The income of rural households is much different than in other areas. Rural homes generally use oil heating. Rural households spend 17 percent more on expenses than England’s national average. Between 2013 and 2017, disposable income dropped from 29 to 26 percent. With the exception of London, mostly urban areas have a higher income than rural areas. Homes not connected to the gas network have significant levels of fuel poverty.
These social factors must be taken into consideration regarding the decarbonisation policy. Any mandated changes will have a significant impact on these households due to the installation expense of non-liquid fuel. Some households will be unwilling or unable to make the change. Others will require financial aid, but will not be pleased with the disruptive and intrusive changes including external cladding and underfloor heating.
Approximately 40,000 individuals are either indirectly or directly employed through the oil heating sector. The switch to a low carbon, sustainable liquid fuel from oil heating must be supported to prevent a significant impact on the economy of the United Kingdom. The most significant impact would occur in rural areas, affecting mostly SMEs. The supporting infrastructure is currently underdeveloped, with immature alternate technology.
Research regarding the potential of low carbon, sustainable liquid fuel was commissioned by the OFTEC in January of 2019. The research involved using this type of fuel to ensure the change to low carbon heating is more friendly to consumers, less disruptive and substantially more cost-effective. The research determined there were dramatic opportunities for decreasing energy consumption and emissions 15 to 42 percent.
When the researchers considered the overall costs, the best option is a B100 or a 100 percent liquid biofuel. B100 offers the lowest annual cost of £122 per tonne for carbon reduction. The second best option is a biofuel blend derived from kerosene and waste or B30K. The impact on emissions is less with the blended fuel. The annual cost of the biogenic options for decreasing annual costs is significantly less than with any alternative including electrification.
The final conclusion is switching to a low carbon, sustainable liquid fuel can potentially provide the greatest reduction of carbon for any off-grid heating. The cost during the appliance’s lifetime would be decreased. The results also demonstrated a sufficient volume of low carbon, sustainable liquid fuels could be made available in the United Kingdom. The result would be the creation of green jobs and investment opportunities with the annual carbon savings reaching £1,354.
Options for Low Carbon, Sustainable Liquid Fuels
This type of fuel is already widely used throughout the United Kingdom. The production has been intensely discussed in the commercial development sector. Some of the options discussed are currently widely available, while others are being discussed as large-scale trials. The options include the following.
FAME or Fatty Acid Methyl Ester: This biodiesel is created through the transesterification of animal fats and used cooking oils. FAME is appropriate for blending a maximum of 30 percent with low carbon fossil fuels including kerosene for heating. FAME is available in large quantities in the United Kingdom, and is currently being used for surface transport.
Pyrolysis Oil: This type of liquid fuel is created when feedstock including used tyres, plastic waste or crop residue is heated under controlled conditions. The material is gasified prior to being condensed for the creation of a liquid. The fuel characteristics are dependent on the feedstock and thermal conditions. Additional processing can turn the liquid into a type of kerosene fuel.
HVO or Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil: This is a second-generation biofuel created using similar materials as FAME. HVO is a replacement for current fossil fuels due to the qualities of the product and production process. HVO is currently available in the United Kingdom on an industrial scale. The supply is expected to increase due to new producers in the market.
The Final Proposition
The research has clearly revealed low carbon, sustainable fuels is a good solution for homes heated by oil to reach the goal of the decarbonisation challenge. One of the best benefits is homeowners would be able to retain their current heating equipment. The systems would simply be upgraded and optimised by the homeowners during the normal equipment cycle of replacement and servicing. Homeowners would remain ahead of new fuel deployment.
The major practical and financial barriers would be successfully overcome by using low carbon, sustainable liquid fuels as a replacement for heating oil. The solution of the future for these homes is the adoption of low carbon heating. Households a step ahead of the transition would receive the advantages of making home improvements to maximise efficiency, upgrade heating systems, enhance thermal efficiency and make certain their homes were compatible with new fuels.
This is an extremely desirable solution for homeowners with older fuel storage tanks and noncondensing boilers. The development of the sustainable fuel market is growing at a rapid pace. OFTEC is confident working with industry partners for the implementation of behavioural, structural and technical changes will result in the delivery of a sustainable and safe solution for homeowners. The OFTEC also understands there is not a lot of time.
Offering a solution suited to the needs of consumers is essential. This is the reason the industry has made a commitment to thoroughly testing both fuels and appliances well ahead of the upcoming deployment to make certain servicing networks, installers and supply chains are prepared. The goal is the completion of the preparation steps necessary for the introduction of low carbon, sustainable liquid fuels. The introduction will include the following two stages.
- By 2027: A blend of 70 percent kerosene and 30 percent biofuel
- By 2035: A 100 percent low carbon, sustainable liquid fuel
The result will be an important contribution towards reaching the government’s goal of decreasing carbon emissions for the 2020s and 2030s.
For the achievement of the changes required to initiate low carbon, sustainable liquid fuels, support from the government is needed to offer consumers the necessary help. The industry must have enough confidence to make the investment. For these reasons, the following recommendations are being made for the government.
- Low carbon, sustainable liquid fuels need to be recognised as one of the options for renewable heating for the Renewable Heat Incentive. This will offer an incentive for changing from kerosene to the new fuel.
- Green finance solutions or incentives are necessary for the support of households reliant on less efficient and older heating systems to enable an upgrade to high-efficiency appliances. The gains will help with carbon reduction.
- A commitment is necessary for including low carbon, sustainable fuels as part of the technologies supported by the government for ensuring decarbonisation into off-gas grid households. Funding is required to support wider field trials.
- A policy framework needs to be introduced for liquid, low carbon fuels for consumer and industry clarity and a synchronised transition.
- Future proposals and proof are necessary for banning the installation of appliances requiring oil heating. All systems installed should be compatible with B100 and B30K.
- Support is necessary for future Energy Company Obligation to help low income and fuel poor rural homeowners make improvements for energy efficiency including the installation of the first replacement heating system for liquid fuel compatible with B100 and B30K.
- Waste capture schemes developed in the United Kingdom must be increased to ensure the power of feed stock is used for low carbon, sustainable liquid fuels.
- National Grid Gas Ten Year Statement
- Apps for Gas & Heating Engineers
- Gas Safety Information & Tips
- Questions to Ask your Gas Engineer
- How Long Does It Take to Be a Gas Engineer?