A town in Norfolk, England has placed itself at the cutting edge of green technology by hosting the world’s first trial of a renewable heating oil that can be used in existing boilers. Local schools in the small Georgian town of Reepham are taking part in the groundbreaking 12-month trial, led by the University of East Anglia (UEA).
The aim of the UEA trial is to prove that environmentally friendly renewable heating oil is a viable option. Argent Energy Ltd of Scotland is producing the renewable fuel—a sustainable biodiesel manufactured from used vegetable oil and tallow (another name for animal fat rendered from cows, sheep, and other livestock). The biodiesel is stored in Norfolk and blended with conventional heating oil by Pace Fuelcare of King’s Lynn, which delivers the fuel to the properties. And once you get past the “yuck” factor, the hybrid fuel is reportedly “equal or lower in carbon footprint than natural gas.”
“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,” said project manager Dr. Bruce Tofield, of UEA’s Low Carbon Innovation Centre.
Lewis Page of the Register writes:
The proponents of tallow-based fuel admit that raising livestock in order to burn their corpses for energy would be a very carbon-intensive way of making biofuel. Rearing cattle or pigs involves the emission of lots of greenhouse gases. But that’s not the idea; rather, the thinking goes, people will raise livestock anyway in order to eat it. Thus it makes sense to use the waste products for energy.
If you can ignore the carbon footprint of making the animals and their fat in the first place—which is 80% of tallow biofuel’s overall footprint*—the stuff becomes quite green, easily beating biofuel made from primary crops such as rapeseed oil or whatever. The gas, transport fuel, and electricity used in rendering, moving, and processing afterwards is comparatively insignificant.
It’s never going to be a solution for everyone, supplies of animal carcasses being finite (normally, anyway: there was apparently a big boom in renewables certificates after the huge stockpiles of tallow from the BSE crisis mass slaughter campaign were cleared for use). The same goes for used cooking oil. But it’s better than simply burning heavy fossil fuel oil, according to the theory.
The project was launched and funded via UEA’s Carbon Connections program and has built on the expertise in biodiesel developed in the university through work with local companies on renewable transport fuels. Reepham has had a fruitful association with UEA’s carbon reduction experts and the town’s “green team” has initiated a number of low-carbon initiatives.
Around 30 properties in the North Norfolk town (including both the primary and the secondary school) and elsewhere in the county are taking part in the trials which started in December.
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.”
(What they don’t know can’t hurt them, right?)
*Send an e-mail to [email protected] to request a PDF that explains the technical aspects of this project. Put the words, “Carcass PDF” in the subject line of your e-mail to expedite your request.