Long-term commitment to decarbonising liquid fuel heating in the UK and in the Republic of Ireland

OFTEC’s journey towards renewable liquid fuels has lasted over a decade, but our commitment to decarbonisation has remained consistent despite the many twists and turns of government heat policy.

OFTEC represents the interests of liquid fuelled heating appliance, storage tank and associated equipment manufacturers in the UK and in the Republic of Ireland.

As far back as 2009, OFTEC had conducted extensive field trials using a blended fuel called B30K, which comprised 70% Kerosene with 30% FAME (fatty acid methyl ester). The trial was successful, and we were hopeful then that the use of the fuel would be incentivised through the government’s planned Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. Unfortunately, when the government launched the RHI, only heat pumps and solid biomass were supported – a disappointing outcome for the liquid fuel heating sector.

Due to the high capital cost of the supported technologies, the anticipated demand for the RHI fell far short of expectations and, following the publication of the government’s Clean Growth Strategy in 2017, OFTEC again dusted off its plans for a renewable liquid fuel. However, by now, the government was no longer interested in making modest cuts in carbon and, while B30K offered a useful starting point, the challenge was to show how progress could be made quickly to much higher blends and, ultimately, achieve zero emissions.

Extensive, industry-funded research suggested that increasing the proportion of FAME in a blended fuel to 50% and beyond would come with challenges, such as long-term storage and cold weather performance. We concluded that FAME based biofuels did not offer a viable pathway to net zero, within required timescales.

Our attention then turned to Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO). This paraffinic fuel has very similar characteristics to kerosene, which is by far the most popular liquid fuel used for heating in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Availability of HVO has increased significantly in the last decade, and the fuel is already being used extensively in transport. Unlike FAME based biofuels, HVO is a drop-in replacement for kerosene and, due to the use of used cooking oil as a primary feedstock, is delivers a massive 88% reduction in carbon emissions. That means it matches the level of ambition needed to meet the UK and Republic of Ireland’s heat policy agenda.


Extensive field testing over three years has now followed, and very successfully too – HVO has fully met our expectations as a low carbon replacement fuel for kerosene. Our research has also shown that availability should be more than adequate to allow it to be used in the heating sector with confidence about availability for the long term.

The remaining barrier to HVO deployment at scale is cost. However, there too in the UK, progress is being made. The need to minimise disruption due to decarbonisation, provide more choice and ensure fairness for consumers are topics of increasing political concern. Renewable liquid fuels can tick many of these boxes and OFTEC, with its industry partners, has worked hard to make the case for HVO to be incentivised for use in heating. We are pleased to report that this case has now been taken up by an influential member of Parliament and calls are increasing for it to be included as part of the government’s heat policy.