Biofuels can help Northern Ireland work towards carbon commitments

Public bodies trial vegetable oil fuel as net zero realisations grow

NI Housing executive has commissioned a pilot scheme using ASHP and HVO to heat homes

There is a growing realisation that a significant percentage electrification alone may not be of the 1.23 million vehicles enough to help Northern Ireland on our roads are diesel
meet its net zero commitments.

While we still await the publication of the new energy strategy for Northern Ireland, it’s fair to assume that heat pump technology is set to feature heavily as the government seeks to decarbonise the local energy sector.

In England and Wales, homeowners are being offered £5,000 to move to heat pumps from next April, but with costs ranging from £6,000 to £18,000 and issues around the suitability of a large percentage of homes in Northern Ireland for heat pumps, a growing number of consumers here want to see viable alternatives.

The Department for the Economy has acknowledged that any new strategic direction for energy in Northern Ireland must consider the existing energy mix. Currently across Northern Ireland, around two in three homes are heated by oil while a significant percentage of the 1.23 million vehicles on our roads are diesel powered.

One of the options put forward in the recent government consultation on the energy strategy continues to allow oil boilers for properties and would instead focus on phasing out the sale of fossil fuels. This option would give consumers a range of options for their home heating, including the use of biofuels and biomass in addition to heat pumps.

Just last month it was revealed that some local government and public bodies have begun testing biofuel for both transport and heating purposes. Belfast City Council has launched a pilot scheme to test the effectiveness of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) on 12 of its vehicles.

At OFTEC, we have long been a supporter of HVO playing a role in the future energy strategy for Northern Ireland. It offers a near drop-in replacement for heating oil at a fraction of the cost of installing an air source heat pump and an immediate reduction of c.88% in carbon emissions.

OFTEC’s aim is to enable all existing oil heating users to convert to a 100% sustainable fossil-free liquid fuel by 2035, well ahead of government’s 2050 decarbonisation targets.
A change to biofuels utilising existing equipment is an easy, low cost and non controversial option and it is something more groups are starting to seriously investigate.

The Housing Executive has als commissioned a pilot scheme which will test the concept of hybrid heating with an Air Source Heat Pump and liquid fuelled boiler using HVO to heat several homes – we await the outcome of that trial with great interest.

Meanwhile, according to the Irish News, Lisburn boiler manufacturer, Warmflow is currently adapting a range of oil-fired systems to use HVO and the company has started using the biofuel to power its fleet of vans.

HVO is already available in Northern Ireland and global supply is increasing fast. With the right policy support, UK industry could scale up domestic production and deployment to meet the heating requirements of homes here well within the net zero timeframes.

David Blevings,
OFTEC Ireland

Contact David Blevings,
OFTEC Ireland Manager
on T: +44 (0)28 9186 2916

or Sean McBride, Ireland representative
on T: +44 (0)7540 502 304 (NI) or +353 (0)87 241 7041 (RoI)