An estimated 50 heating providers could apply to use shale oil this winter, the Environmental Board believes, although currently only one had done so.
This week, Eesti Energia's Enefit Power was given permission to start heating homes in Narvawith domestically produced shale oil as tenders to buy gas supplies for winter failed.
The Environmental Board's assessment shows 200 companies hold an environmental permit to use shale oil and approximately 50 could apply to use it immediately if necessary, Friday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.
The permit means the provider already has permission to use shale oil as reserve fuel, but the usage period must be agreed with the Environmental Board.
"Ignoring some environmental norms because shale oil is more environmentally hostile than gas," said the agency's Erik Kosenkranius.
Due to its pollutant qualities, shale oil is only ever considered a backup fuel. If new gas supplies are found then companies must switch back and new procurements must be made when the markets stabilize, Kosenkranius said
Heating provider Adven is now making preparations to start using alternative fuels in its district heating network.
The company has only managed to procure half the volume of reserve gas it needs this winter.
"Regarding the other half, we are in a waiting position, how much will be replaced with shale oil and how much with gas. The space issues in the boiler houses also need to be resolved so that we can place the shale oil tanks and get clarifications with permits," said Juhan Aguraiuja, head of Baltic business at the Adven-Värmevärden Group.
He said it is too early to say how shale oil will affect heating prices.
"Today's data shows shale oil is cheaper and this should theoretically bring gas prices down for the consumer. But this cannot be forecast today because no one knows what fuel prices will be in autumn and winter," said Aguraiuja.
Editor: Helen Wright