Have a double shot — for your car

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Ms. Coffee Person would approve.

The notion of coffee as energy-producer is nothing new. The morning rush at any decent java joint, and the standard pot in office break rooms are proof enough: Coffee fuels us.

But how about our cars?

That’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. We have already powered jet aircraft with wood. Corn has also been used as biofuel, as can many organic things from sewage to algae, animal fat (more controversial) to sugar. Biofuels are booming, as society is driven away from fossil fuels by economic, political need, as well as environmental concerns.

So wouldn’t it be a literal kick, if both your car and your body could enjoy a cuppa joe together?

Britain’s Arthur Kay believes it’s just a matter of time. Oil extracted from coffee grounds will fuel a bus, if a partnership between his clean technology company Bio-bean, multiple coffee companies, and British researchers proves successful this year. They plan to unveil a London bus that runs on coffee.

We create massive volumes of used coffee grounds anyway; why not put it to use?

Kay was an architecture student at University College London when he conceived of a way to do just that. The patented process extracts hexane from coffee grounds by evaporation. The result is about 15 to 20 percent oil; the rest can be turned into bio-mass pellets which can be burned as a different kind of fuel.

Kay and Bio-bean have won several awards. The first and biggest was a European grant worth more than $500,000 to kickstart the business in 2014. By 2015, Bio-bean was collecting coffee waste from Britain’s coffee producers and shops for its new factory, which can process 50,000 tons annually. Coffee waste in landfills produces potent methane, so Kay’s process also reduces greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Biofuels have their challenges. As exciting, especially to the Northwest, as using wood for jet fuel could become, there are practical and financial hurdles, such as adapting machinery and automotive engines to deal with different substances. But the potential is enormous, as are the political advantages of not having to rely on essentially nonrenewable fossil fuels, and their sources.

Remember that leftover coffee waste, once the potential fuel-oil is extracted? Bio-bean now sells coffee logs for home use, such as the fireplace or woodstove. Kay’s philosophy is that there is no such thing as waste, just “resources in the wrong place.”


Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com.

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