OFTEC, which stands for the Oil Firing Technical Association represents the oil heating sector and is recommending that biofuel offers a straightforward alternative for consumers who are currently using heating oil. They believe that biofuel will enable them to move gradually to a more environmentally-friendly fuel with lower carbon emissions.
According to OFTEC’s head of communications, Malcolm Farrow, a big advantage of biofuel over other alternative low carbon technologies, such as air and ground source heat pumps, or biomass boilers, is there are lower up-front costs associated with it. He said: “Heat pumps are the most logical alternative to an oil heating system.” However, he continued to say that, “heat pumps will involve a change of appliance – if we take an air source pump, which is the cheapest, that is going to cost people a minimum of £6,000 to £8,000.”
Mr Farrow continued: “Heat pumps also tend to produce a lower temperature than oil heaters, so other changes around a home may have to take place, such as the installation of bigger radiators and better insulation. Some of these are positive changes but you probably won’t be able to get away with simply swapping one appliance for another.” This could become a very costly procedure.
“The big plus with moving to biofuel is that you are changing the fuel and not the appliance, at least initially.”
Mr Farrow said he expected the first biofuel for home heating to hit the market would be a 30% blend and that over time people would move to 100% biofuel.
He added: “When you get up to the point where you are using higher blends of biofuel like 100%, then you may have to change appliance but it will take a while to get to that point and we think that can be accomplished over the natural churn of people replacing their boilers.”
OFTEC, which represents oil heating appliance manufacturers and runs a competency scheme for installers, is awaiting a decision from Government on its policy for a road map away from high carbon fuels like kerosene towards low carbon fuels.
Earlier this year, Chancellor Philip Hammond, announced that gas heating for new houses will be banned by 2025, but Farrow says an outright ban on oil heaters is unlikely, and that it is expected that homeowners will be obliged to use oil which has a level of biofuel in it.
Biofuels are not a new thing but in the past one of the main arguments against widespread adoption has been over their sustainability. Many first-generation biofuels came directly from a crop, which was seen as displacing food production or involved deforestation.
Mr Farrow went on to say, “We feel strongly that biofuels are only going to be acceptable if they have the highest levels of sustainability built in. This fundamentally means they are to be made from waste: waste oil from the food chain, waste fats or maybe crops and woodland residues after they have been harvested. We hear about fatbergs blocking sewer systems and that’s the thing we are interested in using to make fuel. There are huge amounts of FAME (Fatty Acid Methyl Esters) already in use, blended into diesel.”
He added: “OFTEC believes a 30% blend of biofuel with kerosene would be used initially. From that we would want to move people as quickly as possible to a 100% blend. The reason you wouldn’t want to do that right away is that it is too difficult a step from a technical perspective and there wouldn’t be the availability of fuel at first.”
OFTEC is planning trials to ensure the technical feasibility of any transition and is working with players in the fuel supply chain, including The Federation of Petroleum Suppliers, as well as businesses upstream involved in blending and refining processes.
Mr Farrow said he expected blended fuels to be in people’s homes by the mid-2020s and that a move to 100% biofuel could happen by 2040.
As for the cost of the new fuel, Mr Farrow added: “We have no idea what it will cost as yet – the price of kerosene changes and the price of FAME has been coming down in recent years.
“It is possible it might be a bit more expensive than the current fuel but we’d hope that it’s a price people are willing to pay.”
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