Future Liquid Fuels

Transitioning to biofuels is key in reaching the Government’s decarbonisation targets, and in a way that works for consumers too.

The UK and Ireland Fuel Distributors Association (UKIFDA) is committed to working with industry and other trade associations to bring an alternative liquid fuel to market in a timeframe that exceeds the Paris Agreement and government net zero targets, providing consumers with a drop in fuel replacement to heating oil that continues to provide the efficient fuel they currently enjoy at an upfront and ongoing cost, that is cheaper than other technologies especially for those in older and rural properties.

In this section of our website you can learn more about biofuels and how you can create a decarbonisation plan for your home with liquid fuels.

Future Biofuels

The challenge for the liquid fuels industry is to find an alternative low-carbon fuel to replace heating oil – and this is an ambition the UK and Ireland Fuel Distributors Association (UKIFDA) is committed to.

Our industry is currently engaged in research and trials are being undertaken that are seeking to find ways to make a long-term change to 100% biofuel from heating oil.

So, what are the options available to homeowners currently using heating oil, in order to help them achieve a decarbonised future?

Alternatives To Heating Oil

At the moment, there are a range of heating options available to homeowners living off the mains gas grid.

The options include liquid fuel heating (heating oil), liquid petroleum gas (LPG), wood burning stoves, electric heaters and various renewable heating systems from heat pumps through to solar power.

Finding a heating system that combines cost efficiency with energy efficiency and convenience is key for many homeowners. Deciding what to do for the best can be tricky – hopefully our guide to the available fuel options, below, will help.

Liquid Fuel

1.5million homes across the UK and almost 700,000 homes in Ireland are heated using liquid fuel. It is a popular choice because it is versatile – it can be used for heating as well as cooking – and is both easy to use and convenient.

Modern liquid fuel-fired condensing boilers have efficiency ratings of over 90%, on a par with gas boilers. When combined with the fact it is one of the cheapest fuels available, and it is easy to shop around meaning you can buy liquid fuel when prices are low, you can understand why so many homeowners choose this option.

Nowadays, heating controls give you flexibility when it comes to heating and you can choose when your home is warmed and on what basis. You’re also in control when it comes to stocking up as you decide when to fill your tank and which supplier to use.


Liquid petroleum gas (LPG) works in a similar way to mains gas and is usually stored in a tank in your garden. However, unlike with liquid fuel, this tank is normally owned by the company supplying the gas – which can make installation cheaper but means there is an ongoing annual rental charge to pay on top of the fuel costs.

The rented fuel tank also makes it tricky to change your fuel supplier as you’re often tied into a long contract. This means it is harder to shop around and buy when the market is good.

According to Sutherland Tables, an independent provider of comparative home heating costs for the most common fuels in the UK and Republic of Ireland, it is one of the most expensive fuels available, although carbon emissions are slightly lower than oil and it does come with a similar level of convenience as liquid fuel.

Night Storage Heaters

These heaters are inexpensive and easy to install. However, when compared to liquid fuel, they are costly to run and only provide a limited amount of control to the homeowner as most of the heat is emitted during the daytime and reduces at night time.

Solid Fuel

Open fires and wood burners are a good way to boost an existing heating system – and a real fire is a lovely addition to every home but domestic coal and certain types of wood are to be banned from sale from 2021 in a bid to cut air pollution.

The Environment Secretary said the move was necessary as wood-burning stoves and open fires were now considered “the most harmful pollutant” affecting people in this country.

Heat Pumps

Often considered a renewable heating option, heat pumps do need electricity to run on which is currently generated mainly from fossil fuels. This is important to keep in mind if you’re looking for a fully renewable heating option for your home.

Heat pumps extract heat from the air or ground and use this heat to warm radiators, underfloor heating systems and hot water in your house. The pumps provide the flexibility of being used to cool your home during hot weather.

As heat pumps are most efficient when producing heat at lower temperatures than conventional boilers, more radiators are often needed or improved building insulation is required when installed in place of a liquid fuel or gas heating system – which adds to the installation costs.

No cheaper to run than gas or liquid fuel boilers, heat pumps are best suited to homes that already have plenty of or larger radiators to keep installation costs lower.

Biomass Heating

Biomass boilers run on specifically treated pellets and are often fitted as a replacement to a gas or liquid fuel-fired boiler.

Suited to larger homes given the bigger size of biomass boilers compared to standard gas or liquid fuel boilers, you also need to install an automatic fuel feed for your biomass boiler or be prepared to do the refuelling yourself.

Solar Thermal

Solar panels are usually placed on a south-facing roof and use the heat from the sun to warm water in the home. Whilst in Britain there isn’t the levels of sunshine required for the panels to heat the entire home, solar panels are great for heating water and for cutting the running costs and carbon emissions of a property – in the summer, solar panels can mean the main heating system isn’t needed at all.

Cost Of Different Types Of Fuel

Take a look at the section on ‘Heating Costs For Your Home’ below for comparative home heating costs for the most common fuels in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

The Transition From Heating Oil To Biofuels  

Biofuels have the potential to enable homeowners currently using heating oil to switch to a more environmentally friendly fuel with lower carbon emissions – and all with minimal disruption and cost too.

Costly and disruptive solutions like retrofitting heat pumps or similar technologies pose too many challenges for those living in off-grid homes, often in rural locations and in poorly insulated houses. Instead, changing the fuel offers a more realistic solution in the long-term as it enables homeowners to keep their existing oil heating systems but cut emissions by switching to a low-carbon liquid fuel like biofuel.

The good news is that while the research and development into biofuels is ongoing, there are small steps you can take to reduce your home’s carbon emissions and energy bills today, in preparation to changing over to biofuel at a later date.

Today, you could cut your home’s carbon emissions and boost its energy efficiency by:

  • Improving insulation in your home
  • Switching to a condensing boiler (a 30% blend of biofuel and kerosene would work well with an oil condensing boiler and infrastructure)
  • Installing a bunded oil tank (also compatible with biofuel)
  • Fitting a smart meter to your oil tank and smart temperature controls in your home

To find out more about the work that is ongoing in relation to the development of biofuels visit fellow trade association OFTEC’s website

Heating Costs For Your Home

Cutting carbon emissions when it comes to heating your home is important – as is cost efficiency.

When compared to the other heating options available for homeowners currently using heating oil to warm their homes, how cost efficient is liquid fuel?

The established and independent provider of domestic heating costs information, Sutherland Tables, publishes fuel prices every quarter – and we have the latest information detailed below so you can easily compare the different fuel types.

The costs illustrated are for a typical 3-bedroom semi-detached house with an annual space and water heating need of around 16,000kWh.

Heating Your Home

Every property is different when it comes to heating and many factors influence how much heat is needed for your home. The Sutherland Tables data is meant for guidance only and will unlikely match how much fuel you use – but it does enable you to compare how your current heating fuel compares to others on the market.

What affects fuel costs?

  • The unit cost of your fuel
  • Your heating system and its energy efficiency
  • How much heating your home and inhabitants need

Heating fuel needs depend on many factors, including:

  • Property size
  • How many external walls
  • Thickness of walls
  • Insulation levels
  • Type of glazing
  • Number of inhabitants
  • Needs of inhabitants in terms of how much they’re at home, how much hot water they use, how warm they like the house, etc.

Heating Oil Costs

For the quarter ending April 2020, heating a 3-bedroom semi-detached house using oil, particularly via an oil condensing boiler, was the cheapest form of fuel in the UK, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.


Creating a decarbonisation plan for your home

You can find help and advice here on how the decarbonisation of off-gas grid home heating could impact your home and to look at the choices you need to make either now or in the future.

Make the right decarbonisation decision for your off-gas grid home?

Advice on completing your home’s decarbonisation plan

UKIFDA working to bring biofuels to market

Biofuels provide the lowest cost per tonne of carbon saving

Throughout 2019, fellow trade association OFTEC commissioned a study through consultants In Perpetuum Partners LLP to look at how the industry could introduce a sustainable low carbon liquid fuel which would allow a more cost-effective and more consumer-friendly transition to sustainable low carbon heating. That study was carried out with the help of a cross industry steering team on which UKIFDA were delighted to participate.

The results showed that biofuels provided the lowest cost per tonne of carbon saving versus other technologies and therefore should not be excluded from future solutions if governments really want to provide the best options for end consumers.

The key graphs from OFTEC’s strategy document are reproduced below

The proposed transitional fuel (B30K which is 30% bio product and 70% kerosene) may not create as much carbon saving as other solutions (graph 1) but it is a very low-cost drop-in replacement for consumers that paves the way for a smooth introduction of a 100% biofuel.

Graph 2 shows that the cost of carbon saving via other solutions is much higher than B30k and the final 100% biofuel would cost £122 to save one tonne versus £321 per tonne using an ashp. Even the transitional B30k only costs £175 per tonne.


OFTEC have kindly permitted us to reproduce the graphs above


Further information on this research and the results can be found on the OFTEC website here

Taskforce for Liquid Biofuels - Current Lobbying Activity of UKIFDA

Lobbying for Biofuels

In this section, UKIFDA takes you through some of the ongoing work we are doing with other Trade Associations in our industry and with government bodies in all parts of the UK and Ireland to facilitate a transition to low carbon liquid fuels compatible with your current oil boiler system. You can read more about the work we are doing here.

The Launch of a Future Vision For Liquid Biofuels

Trade Associations OFTEC, the Tank Storage Association (TSA) and the UK and Ireland Fuel Distributors Association (UKIFDA) kicked off 2020 with the launch of a future vision for liquid fuels ‘Supply Chain Strategy for Liquid Fuels’, which details the steps to be taken toward a transition to 100% biofuel to replace heating oil in 1.5m homes across the UK and 686,000 homes across Ireland.

The Low Carbon Liquid Fuels Taskforce

The three Trade Associations were then joined by other trade bodies and industry representatives in a new ‘Taskforce for Liquid Biofuels’, which uses the policy proposals contained in this future vision document to support a transformational effect on the UK’s off grid heating market and enable Government to maintain a technology-neutral approach, as well as encourage all industries to find solutions.

On January 27th this year, the first meeting of a new Low Carbon Liquid Fuels Steering Team the ‘Taskforce for Liquid Biofuels’ took place in Birmingham.

The team comprises:

  • Several representative fuel distributors
  • Several representative Tank and Boiler/Burner manufacturers
  • Tank Storage Association (TSA)
  • Irish Petroleum Industry Association (IPIA)
  • Northern Ireland Oil Federation (NiOil)

There were three main reasons for the group being formed:

  • To build on the consultancy and lobbying work undertaken by In Perpetuum Partners LLP for OFTEC in 2019
  • To achieve the goals of the TSA/OFTEC/UKIFDA future vision document
  • To build on the field trials of a B30k product back in 2010 and create a new set of 2020 trials across the UK and Ireland with BEIS support.

Each Trade Association has now been tasked with specific next steps in the following areas:

  1. Understand consumer equipment needs for a B30k trial – tank, pipework and boiler/burner
  2. Understand tank specifications and new product specification timelines
  3. Understand the supply of a blended product
  4. Ensure consumers are covered if there are issues
  5. Share knowledge of combustion laboratory trials of B30k from 2010 and undertake lab trials of  other potential new fuels in 2020.
  6. Market research to define the right trial numbers (as and when a trial starts)



UKIFDA Liquid biofuels

Campaign For Affordable Green Heating Using Liquid Biofuels

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