29 October 2007

Discounts for passengers supplying cooking oil

Bus, rail and tram firm Stagecoach has launched an environmental initiative that will allow passengers to exchange used cooking oil for discounted bus travel. Eight vehicles at the firms Kilmarnock depot will be converted to run on 100% biodiesel manufactured from used cooking oil and other food industry by-products, resulting in an expected 82% cut in carbon dixoxide emissions. Crucially, the bio-diesel is produced from tallow and used cooking oil, both of which are sustainable sources that do not involve the destruction of natural habits or compete with the human food chain.

All households on the Service 1 (Stewarton-Kilmarnock-Darvel) - a route which carries around 15,500 passengers a week - will receive a free container to recycle their used cooking oil. It can then be taken to East Ayrshire Council’s recycling plant at Western Road, entitling customers to a voucher for money off their bus travel.

The single-deck Bio-buses, running under the slogan 'do your part, be bio smart!', have been fitted with bespoke dual fuel tanks as part of the project undertaken with Motherwell biodiesel business Argent Energy. Argent Energy, which operates the UK’s first large-scale biodiesel plant, will provide bulk fuel storage at Stagecoach’s Kilmarnock depot for the duration of the six-month trial and will supply all the biodiesel. The Bio-bus initiative is expected to result in an annual saving of 960 tonnes in carbon emissions.

Brian Souter, Stagecoach group chief executive, said: “This innovative project is a great opportunity for our customers to play their part in saving the planet by recycling household products that would otherwise go to waste. I’m sure the idea of cheaper travel in exchange for the used contents of your chip pan will capture people’s imagination.

“Bio-energy is an excellent renewable fuel, which has a number of environmental benefits, and we are delighted to carry out the first UK trial of this technology on a commercial bus service. We are looking forward to assessing these vehicles and the potential of this technology for our bus operations in the UK.”

Jim Walker, operations director of Argent Energy, said: “We are delighted to work with Stagecoach on this ground-breaking trial. I am pleased that Stagecoach has recognised the importance of using biodiesel made from the by-products of other industries and from the left-overs from our everyday lives.”

The buses involved in the trial have MAN engines and Alexander Dennis bodies (as featured above). The dual fuel tanks have 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% biodiesel in more than 4,300 vehicles, covering around 60% of its UK Bus fleet. Last year, Stagecoach conducted the first UK trials of a bioethanol-fuelled bus outside London to evaluate the technology that can use sugar beets to power vehicles. The pilot study covered Liverpool, Barnsley, Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester.

In the LEYTR area we are no strangers to biodiesel fuelled vehicles, with local bus and coach operator Hunts of Alford converting two of their fleet to run on biodiesel: an 02-reg Volvo B7R and an ex-Trent Optare Excel L1170.