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28 Sep 2011 01:09:33

Biodiesel is a viable alternative to non-renewable heating oils, says new NNFCC report

A new report on bioliquids commissioned by the UK Government and written by the UK's National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials – the NNFCC – suggests biodiesel could play an important role in reducing our reliance on the fossil-based oils which currently heat more than a million homes in the UK.

Bioliquids are liquid fuels made from biomass that are not intended for transport. They are typically used in oil boilers to replace fossil-based fuels, like kerosene.

There are currently 1.4 million households in the UK using heating oil, and every year we get through 0.1 million tonnes of gas oil and 2.3 million tonnes of kerosene.

Using renewable alternatives to fossil-based heating oils has the potential to reduce fuel bills and our greenhouse gas emissions. However, replacing or converting our current system to one based on renewables could be costly.

Consequently the NNFCC were commissioned by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change to gather evidence on the most suitable bioliquid heat only technologies, and their costs, to support research for phase two of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

The study considered bioliquids with the potential to be used as heating fuel, either now or in the near-term, such as vegetable oil, biodiesel and used cooking oil.

"Due to the physical properties of bioliquids they cannot be simply dropped-in to conventional boilers; instead we can either convert existing boilers to use bioliquids or build completely new dedicated bioliquid heat plants," said Biomass Research Officer at the NNFCC and author of the report, Fiona McDermott.

"We found the biggest market opportunity for bioliquids was with existing domestic oil users, primarily those off the gas-grid, with a smaller secondary market potential in industrial heat plants."

The NNFCC believe that biodiesel will be the preferred bioliquid fuel in the near-term, because it is of higher and more consistent quality than vegetable or used cooking oils. An alternative could be to convert biomass to pyrolysis oil and this is expected to be available later in the decade, says the report.

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