Review of bioliquid heating options for BEIS

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from home heating presents a great challenge for decarbonising the UK energy system. This is particularly true in the case of the 4 million properties that are not connected to the national gas grid. Residents in these, often rural, properties rely on bulk-delivered fuels that are more carbon-intensive than natural gas, such as home heating oil (kerosene), LPG and coal.

The Government is seeking to phase out the use of high-carbon heating fuels throughout the 2020s and in 2019 the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) commissioned two studies to gather evidence and analyse the options for off-gas grid homes to switch to cleaner fuel alternatives, namely electric and bioenergy. NNFCC were successful in securing the contract to analyse the potential for bioenergy-based heating systems.

NNFCC examined the current off-gas housing stock and evaluated the potential of bioliquids to replace traditional high-carbon fuels, with a focus on the following fuel types:

  • Vegetable oils
  • Used cooking oil
  • Biodiesel (FAME)
  • BioLPG (biopropane)
  • Fuel blends (e.g. 30% biodiesel in kerosene, B30K)

Feedstock availability was a key factor to be considered for each of these fuel types, so using NNFCCs in-house knowledge, previous resource assessment analysis and established network we explored arisings, compatibility and competing demands. Subsequently, a technology landscape assessment was undertaken to identify suitable heating systems or components compatible with the fuel types being considered, and technical, practical and economic constraints were explored using a combination of methods including a literature review, stakeholder surveys and one-to-one interviews.

NNFCC were supported in this project by technical partners, re:heat, who focussed on the practical constraints of installation for bioliquid heating systems. Re:heat visited a number of different properties, representing a range of housing architypes and sizes to explore the technical requirements and logistical issues associated with a switch to the fuel types being considered. As a result of this field-survey, a number of cost scenarios were developed to illustrate the likely cost range of different heating options to off-gas grid properties.

Fuel and technology availability and outline costs were combined in a sophisticated Deployment Model developed by NNFCC, to illustrate likely costs, constraints and carbon savings applicable to varying deployment scenarios. The model was fully flexible, to allow varying deployment rates, fuel- and technology-choices to be modelled, and to allow the client to fully understand the impact of future policy options in terms of both economic and environmental impact.

The project was presented to representatives from BEIS and other Government departments in March 2019 and subsequently published as evidence to support current heat-policy thinking in BEIS.