Green heating oil put to the test

Fuel made from used vegetable oil and animal fat is being used in a groundbreaking trial of a "green" oil that can be used in existing boilers to heat homes, researchers have said.

If the trial is a success, the biodiesel could play a part in reducing the carbon footprint of almost two million homes in the UK and Ireland which currently use oil for heating and hot water.

Homes and schools in the town of Reepham, Norfolk, are taking part in the 12-month scheme, which organisers say is the first of its kind in the world, to test the renewable heating oil.

The local primary and secondary schools are among some 30 properties involved in the project led by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The fuel being used is a biodiesel manufactured by Argent Energy, in Scotland, from used vegetable oil and tallow, which is blended with conventional oil by Pace Fuelcare, Kings Lynn, before the company delivers it to the properties.

The blends have a similar or lower carbon footprint than natural gas.

The aim of the project, in which scientists at UEA are working with the oil heating industry, is to prove that renewable heating oil is a viable option.

Project manager Dr Bruce Tofield, of UEA's Low Carbon Innovation Centre, said: "This is a major initiative in developing lower carbon heating options for millions of properties, especially in rural areas, which depend on oil-fired heating."

Lisa Cook, head teacher at Reepham Primary School, said: "The children are enthusiastic about cutting carbon emissions and we have energy monitors for each class.

"They are genuinely thrilled to be taking part in such a significant experiment."

Jeremy Hawksley, director general of the Oil Firing Technical Association (Oftec), one of two bodies that represent the industry in the UK, said results from the trial were extremely encouraging so far.

"Having a liquid biofuel that is interchangeable with domestic heating oil means that around 1.9 million households in the UK and Ireland will be able to use renewable technology to heat their homes, with very few modifications to their existing heating systems."

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