London Coffee Shops to be Next Biodiesel Source

John Davis

bio-bean3Not too long ago, we told you how researchers at the University of Cincinnati had figured out how to get oil from coffee grounds to make into biodiesel. It looks like that good idea has caught on overseas, as this article from the UK’s Guardian tells how a London entrepreneur is going great guns with the same idea in a venture that’s being called Bio-bean.

“After working on this for a couple of weeks I entered the Mayor’s Low Carbon Prize and was lucky enough to be among the winners”, says [Arthur] Kay. This gave him the impetus to take it forward and team up with business partner Benjamin Harrison. They have since attracted over £100,000 in grants and funding. The idea is not to start small and grow bigger; it’s to start big.

“People think of us in a tiny little van or bicycle going round and collecting 10 kilos from each coffee shop,” says Kay. “We are instead focusing on the [waste streams] of large-scale coffee producing factories in or around London. We’re currently in conversation with a couple of major coffee shop chains too, who are really interested. Our processing plant isn’t operational yet but we’re looking at a six to eight-month timeframe to set up a large-scale waste-processing site in Edmonton, North London, capable of processing 30,000 tonnes a year.”

The technology Bio-bean is using to do this is a mixture of old and new. “Imagine you have a pile of coffee grounds,” says Kay. “You dry them, then we have the patent for the bit in the middle that allows us to extract oil from it. It’s a biochemical process, a solvent that you evaporate through what’s called ‘hexane extraction’. By weight it is about 15-20% oil. The remaining 80-85% is then turned into bio-mass pellets used to be burned in boilers.” The solvent is also 99.9% recyclable, meaning it can be used over and over.

The article goes on to say that the developers see London’s public transport system as a natural customer for the coffee-based biodiesel, maybe even a Bio-bean bus, as many buses in the city are already running on biodiesel. They hope to have a large refinery going soon.

Biodiesel, International