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Waste Coffee Grounds Offer New Source of Biodiesel

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the as-if-you-needed-another-reason dept.

Power 276

Julie188 writes "Researchers in Nevada are reporting that waste coffee grounds can provide a cheap, abundant, and environmentally friendly source of biodiesel fuel for powering cars and trucks. Their study has been published online in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Growers produce more than 16 billion pounds of coffee around the world each year. Scientists estimate that spent coffee grounds can potentially add 340 million gallons of biodiesel to the world's fuel supply."

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First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26087387)

First post, and only because I'm making biodiesel.

won't somebody think of the mornings? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26087393)

and as the price of bio-diesel goes up, so does the cost of our coffee. Eventually, none of us will be able to wake up at all.

Re:won't somebody think of the mornings? (5, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087523)

Note that they make the biodiesel from used coffee grounds. That is, unlike corn, it's not in competition to food usage. Indeed, a growing biodiesel price would mean that the coffee makers would get more money for the waste coffee ground, and therefore if at all, the coffee would get cheaper. Well, at least the coffy you buy ready-made. Making your own probably gets more expensive (but then, mabe it will be possible to sell personal waste coffee ground as well; after all, there should be a lot coffee be made by individuals). What would certainly get more expensive is instant coffee, because that doesn't produce waste coffee grounds.

Re:won't somebody think of the mornings? (4, Interesting)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087623)

What would certainly get more expensive is instant coffee, because that doesn't produce waste coffee grounds.

Eh? Where do you think the rest of those 43 beans goes?

Spent coffee grounds from the brewing process are the primary waste product. At least one manufacturer burns these grounds to heat water and generate steam that is used in the manufacturing process. The process is designed to be environmentally friendly, minimizing waste products by maximizing the use of the raw materials.

http://www.answers.com/topic/instant-coffee-1 [answers.com]

Re:won't somebody think of the mornings? (4, Informative)

XavidX (1117783) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088101)

This is kinda interesting from the link you mentioned (http://www.answers.com/topic/instant-coffee-1)

The manufacture of instant coffee begins with brewing coffee in highly efficient extraction equipment. Softened water is passed through a series of five to eight columns of ground coffee beans. The water first passes through several "hot" cells (284-356F, or 140-180C), at least some of which operate at higher-than-atmospheric pressure, for extraction of difficult components like carbohydrates. It then passes through two or more "cold" cells (about 212F, or 100C) for extraction of the more flavorful elements. The extract is passed through a heat exchanger to cool it to about 40F (5C). By the end of this cycle, the coffee extract contains 20-30% solids.

Re:won't somebody think of the mornings? (1, Troll)

merauder (518514) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087725)

What they should do is offer a recycling program for the used coffee grounds, and take the money made from that to subsidize current fuel prices. Then eventually wean people off that to alternative fuels.

Re:won't somebody think of the mornings? (4, Insightful)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088165)

You want to "wean people off" "current fuels" by subsidising their price?

And Slashotters think this is "insightful"?

Re:won't somebody think of the mornings? (1)

merauder (518514) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088471)

Well whatever it takes to ease people in this economy, while transitioning to alternative sources.

Re:won't somebody think of the mornings? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26087779)

It's a great development really - how much energy could be distilled from the millions(billions?) of tons of waste produced each year by each and every country (and in particular the west). Many SF authors write about futures where space platforms are largely self sustaining and recycle waste to maintain their populations. IMHO that's where we need to be able to get to - assuming we can solve the issue of energy consumption during recycling. Maybe some portion of the coffee grounds could power the recycling of all the other stuff.

And when this happens I can claim that my coffee habit is good for the environment!

Re:won't somebody think of the mornings? (1)

MindKata (957167) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088545)

"how much energy could be distilled from the millions(billions?) of tons of waste produced each year" and "Many SF authors etc.."

Yeah exactly. I was wondering how much fuel we could get, if it was possible to recycle all bio waste? ... It seems to make sense that things like almost all waste veg could be converted into fuel? ... (In theory it seems possible, but I don't know about costs involved). Shops and markets worldwide etc.. create a lot of this kind of waste on their own. (It could become another source of money for them). Add in the waste from restaurants and homes, it must add up to a huge amount of bio waste?

Maybe it could be put into fermentation tanks, using bacteria to part-process it, into something more useful? ... not sure how practical that is, cost wise, but it does seem like there must be a huge amount of bio fuel sources, currently going to waste.

Re:won't somebody think of the mornings? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26088593)

Maybe it could be put into fermentation tanks, using bacteria to part-process it, into something more useful?

something more useful -- like soil?

Re:won't somebody think of the mornings? (4, Insightful)

Evil Pete (73279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087853)

Used coffee grounds. So how much feedstock to the process is this per person. Um let me calculate that.... squat per day. What is the point of this? Think how much fuel you use per day. Measured in litres not millilitres. The trouble with these bullshit figures is that they are unrealistic, they assume suspension of disbelief. Remember in physics classes where they emphasised that you estimated the power of 10 (magnitude) so that you would have a reality check? Same here.

Re:won't somebody think of the mornings? (4, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088303)

With this thinking nothing will ever be a viable "alternative" fuel. Every little bit helps. If oil really is running out, then we are in trouble. But say in 50 years we have:
1% of BioD from Coffee
5% from Hemp
8% from Switch Grass
9% from Soybeans
10% from Human Excrement.
10% from Animal Excrement.
15% from GTL....

Nothing alone is going to replace this magical black liquid made from millions of years of compressing carbons into a very energy dense medium.

Re:won't somebody think of the mornings? (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088451)

10% from Animal Excrement.

Bullshit!

shipping cost (4, Interesting)

convolvatron (176505) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087409)

how much of it can one effectively suck back from the ends of the capillaries of the distribution system?

Re:shipping cost (1)

chaossplintered (1164745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087421)

From large retailers like Starbucks and even places like McDonalds? I'm guessing a lot.

Re:shipping cost (5, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087461)

I don't even want to think about how much a gallon of Starbucks biodiesel would cost.

Re:shipping cost (5, Funny)

Accursed (563233) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087681)

Given the taste of their coffee, it would likely come pre-burnt anyway.

Re:shipping cost (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087821)

It works so good your fuel injection sprays it directly into your muffler, requiring no interference with the existing gasoline hybrid.

Re:shipping cost (3, Insightful)

anagama (611277) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087475)

If lucky, probably just enough to power the trucks to go get it at 47 pounds of coffee grounds per gallon of fuel.

Re:shipping cost (3, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087575)

I doubt there'd be special trips to pick up the grinds. Rather, the coffee shop would exchange their old grinds for new ones each time the truck comes.

That said, I doubt many coffee shops go through enough grinds to make this remotely economical.

Citation needed. (4, Interesting)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087739)

I doubt many coffee shops go through enough grinds to make this remotely economical.

Let's do some rough math. According to TFA, coffee grounds are at least 15% oil. So if a typical coffee shop disposes of 20 lbs of grounds a day, which I would guess is modest, then we're talking about approx. 3 pounds of oil. Are you saying that it will use up a pound or more of oil to transport that to somewhere to process it? And if a coffee shop generates less, why would they have to dispose of it daily? Once they understand it to be a revenue source they will, as restaurants already do about other kinds of waste oil, be more than willing to make the storage space to accommodate the extra income.
 
If we assume that retail space costs $4 per square foot (which is a high estimate for much of the country) and that grounds are stored 4' high, then if, say, 20 lbs of grounds are stored per cubic foot, each square foot of space can store at least 12 lbs of oil. Assuming that oil is worth fifty cents a pound and pickup once every three days, then $0.50 * 12 lbs * 10 pickups = $60 net revenue.

You tell me, is $60.00 bigger than $4.00? It's been a while since I took arithmetic but I seem to remember that this is so.

Re:Citation needed. (4, Funny)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087845)

You tell me, is $60.00 bigger than $4.00? It's been a while since I took arithmetic but I seem to remember that this is so

Confirmation on that, chief. $60 is more than $4.

Re:Citation needed. (1)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088047)

LOL. Well, now I can sleep. Thanks ;->

Re:Citation needed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26088151)

You tell me, is $60.00 bigger than $4.00? It's been a while since I took arithmetic but I seem to remember that this is so

Confirmation on that, chief. $60 is more than $4.

But I thought less was more?

Re:Citation needed. (2, Funny)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088229)

But I thought less was more?

It was, but it grew and now it is more or less more than less.

Re:Citation needed. (2, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087959)

Don't forget to subtract out labor and administrative costs, as well as the cost of operating the coffee to oil process.

At best, it might break even. (See also: that episode of Seinfeld where they fill up a truck with glass bottles to drive to Michigan to redeem the $0.05 deposits.)

I did that already. (1, Troll)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088063)

Take a look again at my pricing. I give fifty cents a pound as the net value for oil. Which is a damned conservative valuation even including those costs. Think of what oil sells for now. Dude, I'm a former logistics and process consultant; I'm way ahead of you.

Oh, and for future reference, comedy shows, especially ones meant to undermine respect for thinking and work, are rarely good guides to framing the utility of an activity.

Re:Citation needed. (2, Informative)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088013)

Once they understand it to be a revenue source they will, as restaurants already do about other kinds of waste oil, be more than willing to make the storage space to accommodate the extra income.

I'm not sure about where you live, but here in western NY, restaurants generally don't get paid for their used fryer oil. Rather, it costs $35 a month to rent an oil dumpster and to have it emptied (at least it did at the restaurant I managed up until 2 years ago). We had someone offer to take the oil for free from us to convert to bio-diesel, but it actually cost us more money to give it away to him since we had to waste time opening and closing buckets, being sure to carefully pour it, etc. At 10 extra minutes per night (2 employees at 5 minutes each), that's an extra 5 hours (300 minutes) a month at roughly $11 per hour (don't forget the business costs above paid wages to employ someone and NY's minimum wage is higher than the federal one). Further, we had to go through the hassle of keeping a second bucket to transfer waste oil around since we couldn't dump the stuff from the grease traps on the grills into his buckets because he didn't want to deal with separating the impurities.

What are restaurants going to do? They can't just dump the oil into the garbage (and you don't want to see what happens to your plumbing when you dispose of used oil in a sink) or else the garbage company and environmental agencies will be after you, so they have to pay the disposal fees. The marginal cost is passed on to the customers as part of the cost of doing business. Even if the restaurants got paid by someone picking up the oil, you don't think they're going to lower their prices by that marginal amount, do you? It'll just be a way to make more money (and then we can hear about big chains that have LOTS of oil making obscene profits at the expense of their poor customers).

Anyway, much like used vegetable oil, there will be increased costs associated with separating and storing a specific waste item. If just 10 minutes a day is wasted on it, then you're just breaking even with your $60 projected revenue stream. In fact, other work that could be getting done is getting delayed in that time (and anyone that has ever worked in, much less managed, a restaurant knows there's always something that can be done). It's just not worth the hassle.

As you said, your numbers are out of date. (4, Informative)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088203)

Sure. In some places. Two years ago or even longer ago. Times have changed since then. Check it out. These days there have been increasing problems with waste oil being *stolen* from behind restaurants. Around here waste oil tanks are chained, locked, and covered in PROPERTY OF.. stickers these days. Certainly, not everybody has figured it out yet but the economics of used oil have changed, even with fuel prices now dropping back down. For a while.

As for the mechanics you're talking about, just like anything else, a new approach is taking a while to get new infrastructure. Waste oil containers *designed* for transfer. Sealed transfer means that are more like the effluent pipes for a motor home than like the kind of manual lift, turn, and scrub you're used to. Catalysts to reduce residue in tanks. Spinner filters that push all that goo out of the way with far less use of consumables.

This kind of thing not only has to deal with half a dozen categories of health and safety regs, it also gets alternately obstructed and improved by big, semi-monopoly firms like Waste Management. But it's also being addressed by more engineers and private designers than the Manhattan Project.

But the bottom line is that these kinds of things are very new and to judge long term viability, let alone net pricing, based on the cobbled together amateur hour stuff you're talking about is like judging what a PC can do based on a badly soldered Altair. Demand is there. Supply is there. McDonalds and the other fast food chains, plenty of non-profits, and several hundred governments are funding the creation of better ways to do this. In fact, McDonalds has been selling their waste oil in Europe for quite a few years now. For, mind you, a hefty profit.

Oh, and fwiw, I'm well acquainted with the mechanics of this. I was just pricing retail space last night, I've been through quite a few waste oil facilities and have gone over things like transfer techniques, residual water percentages, and so on, with people up to and including the head of process engineering for Kettle potato chips and various demand side folks in both east and west coast biofuels processors, including ones from near you. Just talked last month with the New York State head of such things a few months back about the lack of publicity the NY State programs done upstate under Pataki got. I think that you'll find that Patterson will change that.

It ain't over yet, dude. And if you check into petrochemical processing from a hundred years ago you will find that it was messy, awkward, wasteful, and far more dangerous. These things take a little time. And they're improving fast.

Re:shipping cost (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26088131)

And it all seemed to work just fine, until the Juan Valdez oil spill...

Re:shipping cost (4, Interesting)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087525)

from shows I've seen on TV, the idea is for it to be made in lots of local facilities to avoid shipping. It's sort of like future gas stations will make their own biodiesel or at least get it from a supplier within 25 miles in like 80% of populated US cities or something close to that. Also they'd have huge battery banks and solar panels and wind turbines so they could recharge electric cars at very little cost to them. Sounds like they'd make a hell of a large profit by doing either or those let alone both.

Re:shipping cost (4, Funny)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087565)

..It's sort of like future gas stations will make their own biodiesel or at least get it from a supplier within 25 miles in like 80% of populated US cities or something close to that...

And in the unpopulated cities they have to rely on imports because the undead don't drink coffee.

Re:shipping cost (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088577)

Yes. As oil becomes more scarce, recylcing becomes more profitable. It's just basic economics.

Also in my humble opinion, diesel is the future not hydrogen. Diesel engines are the most-efficient method of moving cars, second only to solar which unfortunately has proven to be not practical (yet). So we'll trade-in our inefficient gassers for efficient diesel cars...... then sometime around 2030 diesel will be replaced with biodiesel made from home production (soybeans, corn, sugar cane, and waste products like scrap wood).

We will thus have eliminated most of our dependence on billion-year-old dead trees (oil), and instead fuel the economy using recently-grown plants or trees.

Who knew? (1)

nebaz (453974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087427)

After I drink my cup of coffee in the morning to wake up, I give it to my car, which needs it to wake up too.

Caffeinated Diesel? (4, Funny)

Ssherby (1429933) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087459)

I want my coffee to be unleaded, and my bio-diesel to be caffeinated.

Re:Caffeinated Diesel? (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087861)

My deluxe vehicle only runs on biodiesel produced from Kopi Luwak grounds, made from coffee berries which have been eaten by and passed through the digestive tract of the Asian Palm Civet.

My motor simply purrs along the freeways, naturally!

Save the world, become a geek! (2, Funny)

the_xaqster (877576) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087469)

Yay! /. will supply 80% of the worlds Biodiesel!

Really, what difference does it make? (3, Insightful)

glavenoid (636808) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087477)

Sure, bio-diesel is great, but what difference does that make to people running cars dependent on refined gasoline?

Until either carmakers start to manufacture vehicles that can accept something other than regular gasoline (petrol), or realize the short-term benefits of diesel-based vehicles, this kind of shit will go no-where.

Car-makers -- Start going towards diesel fuel. It's the way of the near future. Diesel engines are already flex-fuel by nature. *Then* create motor vehicles that can handle multiple fuels.

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (4, Informative)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087503)

They do. They just don't sell them in the US, because your domestic diesel is dirty filthy stuff compared to that used in the rest of the world, and would foul their fueling systems in no time at all.

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (1)

glavenoid (636808) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087505)

Touche.

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (5, Informative)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087599)

We fixed that. By 2010, all US diesel will meet or exceed international standards.

VW can't sell their diesel jettas fast enough in the US.

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26087813)

We fixed that. By 2010, all US diesel will meet or exceed international standards.

that's odd, where I am it's only 2008 meaning that you havent yet fixed it. exactly what timezone are you in?

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (3, Funny)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088415)

Most of the world uses the 24 hour clock. 2010 is just before quarter past 8pm.

HTH HAND.

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26087827)

uhhh yea that's why US diesel prices doubled after the low sulfur legislation took effect in 2006

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (1)

mcfatboy93 (1363705) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088801)

not to mention the problem that happened last time the biodesel got really big on the news. food prices went up (alot, and their still there) because we were using corn, one of the most produced crops in america and turning it into ethanol.
what could the effects of this be?

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (4, Informative)

Idaho (12907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087589)

Sure, bio-diesel is great, but what difference does that make to people running cars dependent on refined gasoline?

Until either carmakers start to manufacture vehicles that can accept something other than regular gasoline (petrol)

Uhm, they do?

Except in America, apparently. Meanwhile in the rest of the world, diesel-powered engines are very common, I think in Europe about 1/3rd of new cars sold run on diesel and will accept this bio-diesel without any engine modifications. For trucks (again in Europe), virtually 100% of them run on diesel and it has been this way forever, since diesel engines have high torque at low RPM and are therefore especially suitable to towing heavy loads.

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (1)

ianezz (31449) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088039)

I think in Europe about 1/3rd of new cars sold run on diesel

Actually, more than 50% [greencarcongress.com] .

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088269)

In the UK, it's more like 40% or so, although the rising prices and premium you pay at the pump when you buy fuel, and the premium on diesel engines (modern high pressure common rail diesels are complex) are starting to make it less attractive than it used to be. If you buy new, and do over, say 20,000 miles a year, it's a no-brainer. Less than that, maybe not.
Still, look at the numbers. VW have BlueMotion versions of most of their cars which are nothing more than standard diesels with slightly higher gearing, improvements to aero and rolling resistance and not a lot else. The Polo (slightly smaller than a Honda Civic) can do 75 (UK) MPG.
I drive an 03-plate Skoda Superb. This is more-or-less a VW Passat with an extra foot of wheelbase. It's got a 1.9L VW "pumpe-duse" diesel engine. I can get 50MPG *easily* out of it, and 44MPG in the city, and (after a laptop-powered ECU remap) I've still got nearly 200BHP and 312FT/LBs torque. Power, economy, size, safety - in a 5 year old car.

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26088279)

I think in Europe about 1/3rd of new cars sold run on diesel

Over 50%. In France and Belgium it's over 70%. Even American makes such as Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge offer diesel engines (CRD) on all models.

Multi-fuel is a bad idea (2, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087719)

Multi-fuel engines have been around for a while (engine nerds like to restore the ancient Kelvins, which ran on both gasoline and Diesel - but not very well on either.) However, they will never be as clean and efficient as a single fuel engine because the actual mode of combustion of gasoline and Diesel engines is quite different - gasoline burns fast and Diesel burns slow. I remember well the horrible multi-fuel engine of the British Challenger tank, which betrayed its presence with a plume of smoke. A favorite trick of the squaddies was to wait till an MOD official was near the exhaust and then start the engine, covering them in clouds of soot (I've been in a tank when this happened, and believe me it was very funny).

As noted above, small and efficient Diesels are common in Europe, one reason why our average gas mileage is nearly twice that of the US. The reason for no US sales? Lack of demand, and regulation. US consumers do not like sub-200BHP engines, and the emissions regulations are biased in favor of gasoline. Repeated claims that Diesel particulate emissions kill over 20000 people a year have never been substantiated by proper studies, AFAIK.

Not bailing out GM could be the most environmentally friendly thing the Senate can do, as with GM and its lobbyists off the plot, there is a chance that the US will adopt a more rational (read German, Japanese or French style) approach to car manufacture.

Re:Multi-fuel is a bad idea (3, Insightful)

jsoderba (105512) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087917)

In most of Europe taxes on gasoline are much higher than on diesel. This creates an artificial demand for diesel powered cars. Without taxation diesel is actually somewhat more expensive than gas due to a more complex refining process. Today this tax discrimination is partially motivated by lower greenhouse gas emissions, but originally it was a sop to the trucking industry. It was only in the 90s that environmentally friendly diesels were pioneered by VW.

The diesel engines used by GM's European divisions (Opel and Saab) are competitive with VW's and other European manufacturers' engines. Ford also has good diesels in its Volvo cars.

A major barrier to diesel adoption in the US is California's environmental laws. Diesel engines produce more particulates (soot) than gasoline engines, increasing local air pollution. Due to the geography of Los Angeles it is unusually prone to smog, so California's emission controls are particularly strict. US car makers don't like the idea of marketing models that are excluded from the biggest car market in the country.

Have you heard of the substitution effect? (1)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087751)

Every vehicle anywhere that switches away from gasoline to diesel or some other fuel cuts the demand for gasoline. Demand goes down, prices for gas go down.

Re:Have you heard of the substitution effect? (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087897)

Gasoline doesn't have to be gasoline. If demand for gasoline drops, the low-octane gasoline can be refined into diesel or home-heating oil, some of it can be converted to kerosene, and the rest used for plastics.

 

Yup. It's all just the same bits. (1)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088053)

Couldn't agree more. Not only that, we're getting much better at turning vegetable-sourced feedstocks into all of this, including the plastics. Gawd, I love the future. At least these parts of it.

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087755)

Biodiesel can be used in any regular diesel engine. Gasoline is replaced best by (bio)ethanol. Fischer Tropsch fuels can replace both, although it is easier to make diesels (Fischer Tropsch = gasify biomass to CO and H2, then make a fuel from that over a catalyst).

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (1)

UnderCoverPenguin (1001627) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087963)

Gasoline is replaced best by (bio)ethanol.

Actually, gasoline is best replaced by butanol. The problem is, butanol is more toxic to the microbes that produce it then ethanol is to the microbes that produce ethanol.

Re:Really, what difference does it make? (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087873)

Manufacturers like Volkswagen, Ford, and Mercedes already build diesel cars that can burn biodiesel.

IMHO diesel is the future, not hydrogen. Diesel is the most-efficient form of energy, second only to solar which unfortunately has proven to be not practical (yet). So we'll trade-in our inefficient gassers for efficient diesel cars...... then sometime around 2020 diesel will be replaced with biodiesel made from home production (soybeans, corn, sugar cane, and waste products like coffee/french fry grease/scrap wood).

We will thus have eliminated most of our dependence on underground oil reserves, and instead fuel the economy using recently-grown plants or trees

How practical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26087507)

The number sounds huge until you try to figure out how to recover the grounds. The problem is individuals use a fair percentage of the coffee and even restaurants are spread out. Recycling coffee grounds will be a lot harder than aluminum. The best sources would be factories producing coffee drinks but that has to be a small percentage of the quoted amount. I'd be surprised if 15% could be recovered for processing worldwide even with a major effort. More than likely the number would be more like 2% or 3%. Still worth doing but it'll never be a significant source of fuel.

Re:How practical? (5, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087549)

Well, if you find 50 different sources which each provide about 2% of the needed fuel, you get 100% of your needed fuel.

Re:How practical? (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087633)

Ah yes, the Quagmire approach.

Re:How practical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26088659)

Well, if you find 50 different sources which each provide about 2% of the needed fuel, you get 100% of your needed fuel.

True. However, if all the coffee in the world will only generate 340 million gallons (~8 million barrels), then we're not even talking about enough fuel to run the US for two days (ie: 0.5% of US demand), never mind 2% of world consumption.

To put this in perspective... (5, Insightful)

Protoslo (752870) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087511)

The total yearly amount of biodiesel available from this "abundant" source worldwide is less than the amount of motor gasoline [doe.gov] consumed in a single day in the U.S. in 2007. To be fair, TFA implies nothing of the sort, the summary is just rather enthusiastic.

Re:To put this in perspective... (2, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087773)

There will not be a single source of biomass to replace all fossil fuels. Also, that is not desirable: then the whole world would need to be planted with the same crop. (Although I can see some enthusiasm for a world with only coffee). There are many, many sources of waste materials containing any form of carbon - those can all be converted into a fuel. Obviously, one should always consider the energy needed to make the fuel, and to transport it to where it is needed. If transport is too expensive, I suggest making electricity (rather cheap to transport that).

Re:To put this in perspective... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26088343)

If transport is too expensive, I suggest making electricity (rather cheap to transport that).

Transporting electricity is expensive. Suppose you decide to use wires to do it. You need several pieces of good quality metal all connected from one end to the other. It's not cheap to buy all that copper, and it's not cheap to have the wires and poles installed. And it's not cheap to maintain the wires and poles either.

Then we have the transmission losses. You can easily lose 10% of your electricity in a long run. You might think oh it's only 10%. Compare it to a truck which can carry 30 tons of diesel. How far can the truck go using 3 tons of diesel for fuel? A really long way right? Further than you can get 90% of your electricity?

And you don't need a very expensive road to drive a truck on. But you do need very expensive transmission equipment for electricity.

Re:To put this in perspective... (1)

Alsee (515537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088075)

Ok, on January 1st everyone drinks their year's worth of coffee, and on January 2nd we drive on it.

-

You know that Scene in Back to the Future? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26087569)

I haven't seen Back to the Future since I was a kid, but this reminds me of when they'd modified the car to run off waste. That seemed pretty cool at the time, but one of those ideas that is like the flying car. But it seems as if with all the research in this area, including genetics, bacteria, and algae, we may really be able to run all our cars off waste some day soon.

Re:You know that Scene in Back to the Future? (1)

Anaerin (905998) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088007)

Ah, but the DeLorean always ran on Petrol/Gasoline (Hence the business with the train in BTTF III), the "Mr Fusion" only ran the "time circuits" (And presumably, though never mentioned, the flying).

In other words (2, Insightful)

Once&FutureRocketman (148585) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087577)

Scientists estimate that spent coffee grounds can potentially add 340 million gallons of biodiesel to the world's fuel supply."

Of about a bit less than half of ONE DAY of oil consumption for just the United States.

It's nice to harvest the waste stream and all (although coffee grounds are also really great fertilizer), but this is not in any way a "sustainable" solution to anything. There's a scale mismatch to the problem they claim to be addressing.

that's not great? (3, Interesting)

CaptainNerdCave (982411) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087617)

a little less than half of the current demand for fuel could come from waste products, and you're saying that's shameful? improving the processes will only improve the output. increasing the use of diesel will reduce the overall demand for fuel.

i don't know about you, but if i had the opportunity to turn my various organic _waste_ products into useable fuel, it would be high on my list of priorities. is this being done in europe yet?

Re:In other words (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26087657)

Or what you're really saying is nearly all the fuel produced by the process will be consumed simply by transporting the 16 billion pounds of coffee to a plant where it can be processed to biodiesel and the cars of the employees traveling to the plant to process it.

Iraq to US is fine but Seattle to LA is undoable? (4, Insightful)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087817)

Funny how people keep talking about fuel used to transport other fuel being some sort of dealbreaker. How do these people think gas is transported now from, say, the Middle East? Magic elf slippers? If transporting gas half way across the world, which is what we do now and have for generations, isn't a big deal, then why do people keep thinking that transporting some other fuel a few hundred miles will eat up all of its net energy advantage?

Re:Iraq to US is fine but Seattle to LA is undoabl (1)

irtza (893217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087997)

Well, to answer your question, one must think of the volume of gas produced. Right now, each supplier has output that greatly overwhelms any other aspect of the equation. There is little cost going into extraction, purification and transport because the source itself has an abundant supply.

Now, lets move to the coffee situation. The supply of coffee in each are is relatively limited. It needs to be transported back to a central point for processing. Obviously moving one canister of used coffee to say ohio from washington (state or dc in this case) will not be efficient. Of course no one would do that, so local systems to gather and purify would be needed. The question then is, what is the net energy cost of transporting the spent biofuel to the processing center, and what is the cost of producing diesel from it? Once the diesel is made, will it be in adequate volume to fill tankers and have it moved back out? If collecting a towns coffee only produces twenty gallons, was it worth it? Yes you can move it back out, but it will only supply one or two people.

Perhaps a more realistic view would be that some public service vehicles - say the town trash pickup can actually run off of biofuel being thrown out in the town. Might work out to be a more realistic model.

Now, at the end of this, you might be right. If biowaste other than just coffee grounds are considered, we may have enough to collect and redistribute, but not according to what is stated in this article and links provided in other posts.

Re:Iraq to US is fine but Seattle to LA is undoabl (1)

squoozer (730327) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088031)

The difference is really in the scale of the transportation and the concentration of the fuel source. The fuels that we currently consume such as oil and coal have very large deposits in comparativly small areas. Used coffee grounds on the other hand are widely spread across the whole world making collection harder. I'm sure if oil was spread thinly everywhere rather than being localized in wells it wouldn't be any where near as economical (from an energy point of view).

There is one mitigating factor with used coffee grounds however, a truck had to deliver the coffee in the first place so presumably it could take the used coffee back. Since you have to return the truck anyway you are only paying for the additional weight which shouldn't be great compared to actually moving the truck. Of course this has got to be weighed up against the fact that even if all the coffee grounds were collected the amount of fuel produced is tiny in relation to what is used.

Re:Iraq to US is fine but Seattle to LA is undoabl (2, Interesting)

Alsee (515537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088103)

How do these people think gas is transported now from, say, the Middle East? Magic elf slippers?

Everyone knows elves go barefoot.
Oh wait, no, that's hobbits. Nevermind, my bad.

-

Re:Iraq to US is fine but Seattle to LA is undoabl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26088601)

How do these people think gas is transported now from, say, the Middle East? Magic elf slippers?

It has to do with energy density and locality of the energy source and energy sinks.

So in the oil/gas case you have:
Single Source --> High density -->Multiple Sinks.

In the coffee case
Multiple Sources --> Low density --> Multiple Sinks.

Re:In other words (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087937)

Instead of transporting the 16 billion pounds of coffee to the dump. OK, I'm assuming that there will be a tight infrastructure for bio-diesel plants...

You're missing the point. (4, Insightful)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087791)

This isn't about COFFEE FIXES THE ENTIRE WORLD. It's about yet another proof that we are surrounded by hundreds of viable sources of sustainable fuel. That now that we're finally waking up to it, gasoline and diesel and the lot are just carbon and hydrogen and a few other plentiful elements, all of which are quite literally common as dirt and easy to shift from one simple set of molecules to another. It's only being subjected to over a hundred years of propaganda and sabotage by the oil companies that made us forget that in the first place. Henry Ford and Rudolf Diesel, to name two, certainly always knew better.
 
  Do you consider a single teacher useless if she or he can't personally teach every student in the world at once? Do you consider a meal useless unless it means you'll never have to eat again? Do you consider RAM useless unless each piece can hold all the files you'll ever need to store?

This isn't "a scale mismatch". It's just people going out and significantly decreasing the problem. And with them cutting it down by maybe a third of one percent this week and somebody else finding another approach that cuts it by another half a percent next week and so on, the work gets done. Thats what real life is. You go out and make things better. And with six billion of us, you don't need to assume that one little development will fix the problem. Only that it moves us forward.

Amen (0, Redundant)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087803)

You said it brother.

Re:You're missing the point. (1)

squoozer (730327) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088097)

I fear you are actually missing the point. The point is not that coffee grounds can or can't make oil it's how much effort it requires to do it for what gain we get out the other end. For a start I doubt very much if the figures for the amount of diesel produced are realistic. This person is trying to sell this idea so he's going to have given the best case scenario where every used coffee ground is processed into diesel which simply isn't going to be the case in reality. For arguments sake though lets say he is correct and in a year his process can produce about enough one days worth of fuel for the US.

I wonder though how much effort went into collecting and processing all that coffee. Obviously we will mechanize as much of it as is reasonable but it's still going to require machines and people to operate them. Even if we use the best case of having the delivery drivers collect the used coffee we are still talking about some additional staff.

I'd bet that if you looked at the number of people required per million gallons of diesel produced this system would come out very poorly against just pumping it out the ground and that is the crux of the problem.

Dude, have you looked into modern oil refining? (4, Insightful)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088249)

It's been a hell of a long time since anybody just "pumped it out of the ground". Oil these days is forced up with thousands of tons of pressurized (and now toxic) water, run through hundred million dollar curving, shifting pipe complexes that are prone to breaking waaaaaaay down in the ground. If, that is, the platform can be kept on station, the local government doesn't collapse, the pipeline isn't blown up by rebels or simply competing power groups, and on and on. If you think that we're comparing biofuels to a process where people just dig a hole a few feet deep and oil just politely spurts into a tank, then I think that you need to take a look at how these things are done in the modern world.

Big Deal? (3, Funny)

JRSiebz (691639) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087595)

I've been putting coffee grounds in my Mr. Fusion for years.

Re:Big Deal? (1)

jo0ls (865619) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088551)

And they already make it from Texas Tea anyway.

How do they do it? (3, Interesting)

Virtually Sane (1168935) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087661)

OK - so I read the article os I'm not a real Slashdot reader.

They quote a figure of 11 - 20% oil in the coffee grounds and processing leaves a solid that can be composted. This looks like standard solvent extraction of the oil.

The scale of the material available is not enough to replace non USA sources of fuel for cars.

BUT it is a step in the right direction, along with oil from algae, fischer-trope, oil from crops etc. Diversity of supply gives better security and helps keep the money in the country rather than export cash abroad.

If I were a betting man, I'd put money on small scale (1 tonne/hour) fischer-trope reaction vessels - this can use any waste organic material.

For the sceptics out there, look at the scale of ALL organic based waste in the USA and then look at the volume of oil that fuel derived by this process could deliver.

Also in terms of jobs, I believe there may be a number of auto parts suppliers looking to diversify into new industries right about now.

Back to the future? (2, Interesting)

guacamole (24270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087669)

All this talk about biofuel from this and a biodiesel from that leads me to wonder whether some day our cars and homes will be equipped with mini power plants that process organic material, kind of what we saw in the Back to the Future's modified DeLorean from the future..

Diesel in the USA..? (4, Interesting)

heavygravity (160241) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087683)

With all the talk about driving more fuel efficient vehicles and people buying hybrids thinking that they're getting the most efficient vehicle out there, I have one question: why aren't diesels being used in the USA?

Of course they can be found very occasionally, but they're certainly not mainstream.

Why a diesel? Well, I drive a 4-year old diesel car. It's a full size car. It uses 5.3L/100km (that means I get 44.38mpg). And I drive like a normal person (or perhaps a little more aggressively). The car tops out at about 140mph.

This is a run of the mill vehicle - except it uses a 2.0L diesel engine. Why don't carmakers sell diesels in the USA? It doesn't seem like rocket science.

Re:Diesel in the USA..? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26087737)

http://www.businessweek.com/autos/autobeat/archives/2008/09/can_diesel_ever.html

Re:Diesel in the USA..? (5, Insightful)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087825)

Our car companies and national vehicle policies haven't turned out to be very bright. Some people say that eventually this may even cause American car makers to have financial problems. Maybe you've heard about it.

Re:Diesel in the USA..? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26088173)

My Gasoline car gets about 25mpg average. My gasoline motorcycles gets something like 100mpg.

Either of them can reach 0-60 in under 5 seconds. The bike will do it much, much faster (if you can hold on).

My GF's Diesel VW gets more than 40mpg, but it's slow as dog shit. Almost to the point of being dangerous.

In the town I live in, the ONLY major road from one end of town to the other is a highway with a 50mph limit, dropping to 30 in parts of town. Ever pull out onto a highway in a car that goes 0-60 in like 10 seconds? It's fucking terrifying.

Meanwhile, I've got a dual fuel car (natural gas/gasoline) that gets 40mpg and still has decent power and speed. It costs me about 5$ to fill the NG tank, and that'll get me about 250 miles. At which point, if no NG source is handy, I can get another 250-350 on the gas tank.

The kit to convert to dual fuel cost about 1500$ professionally installed, and I got a tax write off for double that in the process. The gas company paid for it, and let me pay them with interest free installments.

The joke is on my landlord. NG is included in my rent. ;)

Why bother turning it into diesel? (2, Interesting)

InakaBoyJoe (687694) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087885)

.. or you could just leave the grounds out to dry, then toss them into an ordinary furnace. Generate heat or steam or electricity or whatever without the nasty chemicals and energy required to process the stuff into biodiesel...

Re:Why bother turning it into diesel? (1)

Virtually Sane (1168935) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088291)

Kenco in Banbury, UK, do this already - saved a fortune in energy

This makes even less sense than corn ethanol (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 5 years ago | (#26087943)

Let's assume spent coffee grinds are easy to collect (they're not), and that those making biodiesel from grands will have a free supply of spent grinds (which they won't). The amount of usable fuel oil from grinds will require more spent fuel than the process produces.

Corn ethanol has the exact same problem. By the time you've farmed the corn and processed it for fuel use, you're expended more fuel than it saves. Sure the corn is renewable, but it's fossil fuels that are being burned to make it and ship it.

If It Can Be Done With Used Coffee Grounds... (2, Interesting)

Soloact (805735) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088009)

...then one would think that the fuel could be made out of all biodegradeable "waste" plant matter. Collecting it would just be a small step for many, as they already sort out glass, paper, plastic, etc, for recycling. Out here, they already have the separate green bins for plant matter recycling. Would also drastically reduce the amount of garbage that people generate.

Re:If It Can Be Done With Used Coffee Grounds... (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088219)

Recycled plant matter is better used as organic fertilizer, rather than producing oil from it, then producing toxic chemical fertilizer from that oil. Far less energy is required in the former process, and it is healthier and produces better quality food.

it's all coffee's fault (1)

z-j-y (1056250) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088011)

If we ban coffee, the world energy demand would drop to 10% of current value.

Two hours and 20 minutes (4, Interesting)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088139)

Scientists estimate that spent coffee grounds can potentially add 340 million gallons of biodiesel to the world's fuel supply.

I assume they mean 340 million gallons a year.

World oil production is around 83 million bbl a day (2004 est.), about 10 times as much (1bbl = 42 gal). So this would keep us going for about two hours and 20 minutes a year.

more on coffee (1)

irtza (893217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088141)

just finished reading this in the last front page article http://games.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1059759&cid=26086943 [slashdot.org] and they throw this at us. Just think, "McDonalds biofuel burned my car after I crashed it!" I would laugh, but I am too scared it may happen.

How much is 340 million gallons of diesel? (1, Redundant)

Noonian (226) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088149)

To put everything in context :

1 barrel of oil (bbl) is 42 gallons, so 340 million gallons of oil is a little over 8 million bbl.

How many bbl do we use in the US? According the the CIA world factbook [cia.gov] , the US consumed 20.8 million bbl/day in 2005. (It's almost certainly higher today.) That means we've just found enough oil to replace about 2/5ths of one day's worth of oil demand in the US.

It's a baby step in the right direction...

feel good fluff? (0, Troll)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088455)

can they turn feel good fluff journalism into biodiesel?

"i'm drinking my morning coffee and... they can turn my coffee waste into fuel! awww..." **hugs**

anyone actually interested in solving the energy crisis?

a question of infrastructure (2, Interesting)

oenone.ablaze (1133385) | more than 5 years ago | (#26088641)

I'm wondering whether this production of biodiesel requires different equipment and processes than the filtration of used cooking oil, or any number of other sources. Otherwise, we'd have this expensive, bulky equipment just for purifying coffee grounds, and additional expensive, bulky equipment for processing peanut shells, and any number of other sources, all for producing less than one day's worth of oil demand all year. If the biodiesel is extractable using some kind of "standard method," perhaps the coffee conversion process could follow something like the recycling model--all biodiesel-containing waste products in one bin, plastics in another, etc. But at what level of efficiency could this possibly happen?
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