London Buses Run on Bio-Bean

Shell and bio-bean 2017 Credit: Ed Robinson/Shell

Bio-Bean, a British startup, has started to partner with companies such as Shell and Argent Energy to create a coffee-based diesel fuel to be used in London’s various busses. In 2013 the company was founded by Arthur Kay and is the first company that aspires to industrialize the process of recycling waste coffee grounds into biofuels and chemicals.

The company does not believe in waste; just misplaced resources that they strive to produce into clean fuel. On their website, Bio-bean states that “spent coffee grounds are highly calorific and contain valuable compounds, making them an ideal feed stock from which to produce clean fuels.” The startup saw potential to create this fuel from the 500,000 tons of coffee grounds in UK landfills and an opportunity to help save the environment by reducing the amount of methane, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere.

In previous years, the company produced various products such as the “Coffee Log”, (£7.99 or about $10.75) a product used to sustainably heat homes. The log works by packing together 25 cups of ground coffee into a block of material that has been measured to produce “about 20% more energy than wood” (Bio-Bean). Currently, the startup is taking its goals a step forward and is planning to turn coffee waste into a clean fuel to be tested in  the public transit network of London.

As of November 20th, 2017, The company has produced a total of 6,000 liters of coffee oil and, with the help of the London Transit Authority, planed to power one London bus for a year to test for efficiency. Bio-Bean collects coffee waste from various cafes, restaurants, and factories in the area, then sends the wastes to a recycling plant. There the grounds are dried before the coffee oil can be extracted. The coffee oil is then blended with other fuels and oils to produce B20 Bio-fuel (20% bio-components) which can be used in diesel buses and vehicles without additional modifications. Use of this fuel costs significantly less than the use of traditional diesel fuels and allows for a cleaner environment.

It is always interesting to see how a small project such as Bio-Bean develops and progresses with time. The creation of the coffee log was unique as it introduced recycled coffee as a way to heat a home. The new deal with Shell and Argent takes this small startup to the next level. As they create this futuristic fuel, many could call into question its ability to be used in society. There are many other alternatives that attempt to reduce the emission of harmful gases, such as electric cars, but unfortunately are making small changes in the environment. Thus, it will be fascinating to see if Bio-Bean will be a leader in making the planet healthier

Bio-bean is not the first company to pursue an interest in alternative fuel sources. Many other companies have seen the potential for the successful adaptation of bio-fuel and have implemented it in many ways that are both similar and different to what Bio-Bean attempts to do.

In 2017, a company by the name of Fiberight began construction on a facility with the intention of converting “trash and in some cases corn stalks or wheat straw” (Barney)  into a form of bio-fuel. This company, while also focusing on recycling, has set a goal of “transforming… solid waste and other organic feed stocks into next generation renewable bio-fuels with cellulosic ethanol as the core product” (Barney).

Another company working towards a similar goal is Plastic2Oil. This company, while doing essentially what the name entails, combats liter while producing an “ultra-clean, ultra low sulphur fuel” (Barney). The company is able to take on two problems with one solution. This is done by utilizing liter and other waste in their production of fuel. In doing so, there is an “economic benefit” for the government and other organizations as litter becomes less of an issue. The company tends to have around an 86% success rate when creating this fuel from litter and for every 8.3 pounds of litter collected one gallon of fuel is able to be produced.

Despite London’s goal of an emission-free transport network by 2050, as of time of writing, Bio- Bean has no formal agreement to continue using its coffee based fuel in London buses. The company is currently looking for new markets and for ways to continue to innovate. Recently in a written statement, the company set its sights on America as “there is huge potential to expand the project into the U.S, which drinks the most coffee on the planet, 400 million cups a day” (Bio-Bean).


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