Bus biofuel project extended

Bus operator Stagecoach is extending a pioneering biofuel initiative for a further six months after the project, in which buses run on recycled cooking oil, generated a significant cut in carbon emissions and boosted recycling.

The UK's first Bio-buses were launched in October 2007 as part of a ground-breaking environmental project in partnership with Argent Energy that allows customers to exchange used cooking oil for discounted bus travel.

Eight vehicles in Kilmarnock, Scotland, run on 100 per cent biodiesel manufactured from the cooking oil and other food industry by-products from sustainable sources.

The single-deck Bio-buses run under the slogan: "Do your part, be Bio smart!" In the past six months, the cleaner fuel project has cut CO2 emissions from the buses by 80 per cent, saving 550 tonnes of carbon.

Stagecoach issued 5,000 free containers to householders on the route from Stewarton to Darvel via Kilmarnock, to allow them to recycle their used cooking oil in return for discounted bus travel. In six months, more than 21 tonnes of oil has been taken to East Ayrshire Council's recycling plant, doubling the volume normally recycled at the facility.

Local schools and other groups have taken a keen interest in the Bio-bus project. Sam Greer Managing Director of Stagecoach West Scotland, said: "The Bio-Bus project has captured the imagination of local people, and the community has really got behind the scheme.

"More than 600,000 passengers have used the Bio-bus service, helping to cut their own carbon footprint, and we are a long way toward reaching our goal of running a 100 per cent carbon-neutral service. We are delighted to extend the project for a further six months as we monitor the potential to roll the 100 per cent biofuel out to other parts of our UK operations."

Argent Energy, which operates the UK's first large-scale biodiesel plant at Motherwell, is providing bulk fuel storage at Stagecoach's Kilmarnock depot for the duration of trial and is supplying all the biodiesel.

The buses involved in the trial have MAN engines and Alexander Dennis bodies. They have been fitted with bespoke dual-fuel tanks having the capacity for 184 litres of biodiesel and 40 litres of mineral diesel.

From first start up in the morning, the buses will run on mineral diesel until the normal engine operating temperature is achieved, a process that takes no more than 10 minutes. The system then automatically switches over to biodiesel, which powers the vehicles all day.

Stagecoach currently uses a blend of 5 per cent biodiesel across its 7,000-vehicle UK bus fleet. This mix is widely used and needs no modifications to vehicles or supply logistics, whereas the 100 per cent biodiesel (B100) fuel needs to be kept at a constant temperature, requiring dedicated fuel storage tanks and modifications to the vehicle tanks.

In a separate announcement, Stagecoach has given details of a £71m investment in new buses and coaches for the UK during 2008-9. It has confirmed orders for nearly 500 of the planned 584 new vehicles, be built by Alexander Dennis (ADL), Optare, MAN, Plaxton, Scania and Volvo.

Of this initial batch, 220 vehicles will meet stringent Euro 5 emissions standards that come into force in September 2009. These vehicles will use selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology to reduce nitrogen oxides in the exhaust gas. The engine is optimised for low emissions of diesel particulates and low fuel consumption. By adding a reducing agent, the nitrogen oxides produced during combustion are converted into harmless nitrogen and water vapour within a catalytic converter.

Image: A Stagecoach Bio-bus

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