First home in Northern Ireland to be heated with HVO biofuel
First home in Northern Ireland to be heated with HVO biofuel
Pictured is David Blevings, OFTEC and Mark Eccles, Grant NI

A new-build house in County Down is set to dramatically reduce its carbon footprint after becoming the first in Northern Ireland to be heated using a biofuel.

The property, at Ballyfrenis outside Millisle, is using Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) for space heating via a 26kW biofuel-ready Grant Vortex condensing boiler (boiler house model). As a result, the home is on course to deliver savings of around five tonnes of carbon dioxide per year which is a reduction of almost 90% compared to if using heating oil (kerosene)*.

Earlier this year, the Department for the Economy published its 2023 Energy Strategy Action Plan with the inclusion of low carbon energy sources a key part of the document. With a public consultation on heating planned this summer, the action plan outlines the Department’s priority areas for action in 2023, and high on the list of objectives is replacing high carbon heating sources with lower and zero sources in households and businesses.

In Ballyfrenis the home adaptations have been so successful that the property has had a revised energy performance rating, increasing from B85 to A96, far in excess of the Northern Ireland average of D60 (A ratings require a score of 92+).

The heating solution was designed by Next Gen Power and OFTEC, the trade association for the liquid fuel industry, oversaw the boiler conversion while London-based Green Biofuels Ltd supplied the advanced HVO fuel.

Mark Eccles, Grant NI said, “We are delighted that one of our 26kW biofuel compatible Grant Vortex condensing boilers was included in this heating solution. A first for Northern Ireland, this low-carbon heating system has futureproofed this home and is a great example of how HVO could provide a more sustainable way to heat existing homes than a heat pump.”   

OFTEC Ireland Manager, David Blevings said: “Utilising HVO (which is made from used cooking oil and animal fat from food industry waste) and the solar we are estimating a total carbon emission of approximately 1.14 tonnes, that’s a reduction of over five tonnes of CO2 or an 88% reduction in the overall carbon footprint.

“As NI looks forward to a heat consultation in the summer, there is growing support for a range of technologies to be used and calls for all low carbon pathways to be explored. It has been encouraging to see the Department’s Energy Strategy Action Plan include the need for low carbon energy sources in Northern Ireland. In GB and the Republic of Ireland, both governments are proposing an all-electric future with air source heat pumps being promoted as the preferred option and district heating in urban areas.

“In OFTEC’s opinion, a heat pump is an ideal product for a new build or thermally efficient house, but with 70% of bungalows, 50% of semis, 53% of detached and 44% of terraces in Northern Ireland being in SAP Band D–G, you must ask if these properties are suitable for this technology.

“Many will say yes, but with Governments’ own data showing that to retrofit/upgrade insulation and install a heat pump it will cost anywhere from £23,000 to £30,000. With consumer finance at a real time low is this really a viable option for around 500,000 homes currently using oil in Northern Ireland?”

The home outside Millisle is being monitored by Dr Patrick Keatley of NEMO Energy Limited.

Dr Patrick Keatley said: “With HVO emitting 0.036 kgCO2/kWh compared to kerosene at 0.298 kgCO2/kWh we can achieve a substantial reduction in the carbon footprint immediately.

“We will be monitoring the property over the next 12 months and will confirm the findings at the end of the year. In terms of CO2 emissions, an HVO-fired boiler can deliver the most rapid and significant reductions and requires the least behavioural change by customers.”

David Blevings adds, ““Government support for HVO as a low-carbon heating solution could make it a relatively straightforward and cost-effective option for decarbonising liquid fuelled homes today. We are particularly encouraged by the recent Private Members Bill tabled by George Eustace MP that calls for the introduction of a scheme which reduces the cost of biofuels used for heating in a similar fashion to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO).

This Bill received cross-party support including from Conservatives, DUP, Labour and Plaid Cymru. Discussions continue with the aim of getting an amendment to the Energy Bill, which will come before the House of Commons later this year."

Learn more about the award-winning Grant Vortex range here.

Pictured is David Blevings, OFTEC and Mark Eccles, Grant NI


First home in Northern Ireland to be heated with HVO biofuel

*The figures used in this article are estimates provided by Ardent Energy Ltd.