Looking to the future of HVO

With around 1.5 million UK households using heating oil, it has been a popular choice for off-grid homes for many years. Most of these homes are located in rural locations, and according to Future Ready Fuel, 46% were built over a hundred years ago and have hard to insulate solid walls so are poor at retaining heat. In addition, 65% are in the poorest Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) bands E to G.

We all know that heating oil is not the most environmentally friendly way to heat our homes, and many of us, along with the UK government, are considering how our day-to-day lives impact the environment and how we can make positive changes.

The UK government aims to have a 68% reduction of carbon by 2030 as part of their 'Carbon Zero by 2050' initiative and their ‘Heat Pump Ready Programme’ supports heat pumps as a key solution for decarbonising homes. However, these older homes will, in themselves, present some challenges as they are likely to be the most difficult to convert to heat pump systems, and in addition there are high costs associated with improving EPC bandings.

Malcolm Farrow, head of public affairs at OFTEC, said this week ‘There are risks in focusing too much on one technology. Not every property is going to be suitable for a heat pump and their high cost is a barrier to progress.’  He went on to say ‘Working with industry partners, we’ve transitioned nearly 150 heated properties to the renewable liquid fuel Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO). The demonstration project has been hugely successful and it’s clear HVO works as a solution’.

The issues surrounding heat pumps mean the benefits of being able to use a renewable liquid fuel are clear, and as such, we recognise that making the use of HVO in rural home heating a realistic possibility is an important step in tackling climate change and achieving the UK’s net zero target by 2050. In this blog, we’re going to take a look at HVO, or Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil, what it is, what we know so far, and when it might become available.

So what is HVO?

Well, it’s an exciting new renewable fuel and as such an ideal greener choice, not just for off-grid homes, but businesses too. A low carbon alternative to heating oil, it’s fossil-free so it doesn’t contain the harmful components of fossil fuels such as heating oil, diesel and coal, and is made from certified sustainable waste materials which are reacted with hydrogen at high temperatures and pressure, instead of fossil diesel. And the good news is it doesn’t contain FAME which is the root cause of many fuel storage problems and fuel filter blocking issues as it’s a 100% advanced renewable fuel that’s FAME and ester-free.

HVO is specially formulated to deliver a cleaner burn, producing significantly lower Nox and particulate matter.  Properties that convert from oil fired central heating to HVO will benefit from a reduction of 88% in respect of carbon emissions. It has a naturally high cetane number so ignition is easy and combustion is complete, can be blended with traditional fuels and has good long-term storage stability.

Will I notice any difference?

The simple answer is no. The renewable liquid works well in all existing oil fired central heating systems, and you won’t notice any difference. With HVO you can expect the same high-quality and efficiency of heating oil. And the good news is that, unlike kerosene heating oil, it doesn’t smell. So it’s win, win!

And it can be delivered in the same way as domestic heating oil is delivered.

HVO is also biodegradable and insoluble in water, so has a longer shelf life than traditional heating oil, and there’s a reduced risk of environmental damage should you have a leak or a spill.

Will I need a new boiler and/or heating system?

Installing heat pumps or similar technologies can cost thousands of pounds and can be extremely disruptive. But the good news is that with HVO you will have little expense, as you won’t need a new boiler and system. Instead, as HVO has different characteristics to kerosene heating oil, it will require different combustion settings. A simple conversion process will have you ready to go in no time, providing a more realistic solution in the long-term than the high cost alternatives of installing other low carbon heating alternatives such as heat source pumps. This simple conversion could be done when you have your annual boiler service.

Is HVO available now?

Whilst we’re looking forward to supplying HVO sometime soon, we don’t just yet. The good news is that the results of trials have confirmed that this fossil-free fuel works in almost all existing home heating systems. So watch this space!

In January this year, George Eustice, Cornish Conservative MP and former Environment Secretary, introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament to support the use of HVO in heating. The Bill proposes to reduce the duty charged on renewable liquid heating fuel and incentivise consumers to replace kerosene in existing heating oil boilers.

Mr Eustice explained the intention of his bill is to reduce the cost of HVO so it can achieve parity with kerosene, and he said this could lead to 'a very rapid adoption of HVO'.

So, what can you do now?

While we wait for HVO to become available, there are small steps you can take to reduce your home’s carbon emissions as well as some energy saving steps to help reduce your bills.  Improving insulation and reducing heat loss in your home can help make valuable savings and reserve your energy, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

Fitting a smart meter to your oil tank, such as our OilFox, and smart temperature controls in your home, can help you monitor your usage and identify ways to save. And using a timer thermostat to set your heating to switch on and off can help you drive down your heating oil costs as well as cut carbon emissions.

Switching to a condensing boiler, or installing a bunded oil tank can boost the energy efficiency of your home and reduce your carbon emissions. Or, having your existing boiler serviced on a regular basis to keep it in tip-top condition can help it run to its maximum efficiency - as well as keep your family safe.

And then there’s our Premium Heating oil! It’s a cleaner burning fuel which has been specially formatted to make your oil central heating boiler up to 15% more efficient, stay cleaner for longer and reduce CO2 emissions as well – helping you reduce your carbon footprint. Not only that, it also helps prevent sludge building up in your heating oil tank, reduces fuel degradation and stops rust developing in your boiler. And it comes with carbon offsetting.

And one last tip – ordering smaller quantities of home heating oil means more frequent deliveries, more smelly diesel being used, and increased carbon emissions. Ordering in larger quantities reduces the number of trips.

We're always just at the end of the phone if you want any help or advise. And get in touch for a competitive Premium Heating oil quote and start reducing your environmental impact today.