OWI investigates operational safety of oil heating systems in existing buildings

Heating test rig in the laboratory of Oel-Waerme-Institut. Photo: OWI

13 September 2019 – Are existing oil heating systems in which synthetic or biogenic fuels are used just as reliable and durable as with conventional heating oil? The OWI Oel-Waerme-Institut is investigating this question in a current research project. The research institute is investigating whether the fuels produced in Power-to-Liquid (PtL) and Biomass-to-Liquid (BtL) processes are compatible with the existing heating technology. The advantage of these alternative fuels is their high potential for reducing greenhouse gases. Depending on their type of production and use in closed carbon cycles, they can even be almost CO2-neutral. In addition, the targeted optimization of the application properties of such alternative fuels would further minimize pollutant emissions.

The expectations for these future fuels are therefore high. In addition to climate protection and pollutant reduction, they should also meet the technical requirements with regard to their possible use in existing heating systems. They must be compatible with the materials of technical components such as pumps, nozzles or filters as well as with seals. The safety technology of the heaters must function flawlessly and there must be no adverse effects due to deposits, for example in the formation of mixtures, even after prolonged periods of operation. The emissions and performance of heating systems has also to be tested in long-term tests. Finally, the stability of the fuels during long storage periods is also the subject of comprehensive investigations.

Since the fuels will only be available in sufficient quantities when larger production capacities are built up, admixtures to conventional heating oil would probably be the first step towards market introduction. These blends in different proportions are also investigated in the project for possible interactions and their storage stability. In this project, the use of oxymethylene ether (OME) in the domestic heating market will be investigated as an example for PtL fuels. Hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) will be also tested.

The results of the investigations should provide information on the conditions under which the use of liquid synthetic and biogenic energy sources in existing plants is possible. For example, it can be expected to what extent already installed oil heating systems will have to be adapted for long-term operation with alternative liquid energy sources, or whether additive use of the fuels is recommended. At the same time, the results can contribute to a reduction in development times for future generations of burners and other components.

The IGF project 20749 N of the research association German Society for Petroleum and Coal Science and Technology e.V. – DGMK, Überseering 40, 22297 Hamburg is funded through the AiF as part of the program for promoting joint industrial research (IGF) by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy based on a German Federal Parliament resolution.