One third of London buses to run on biodiesel blend

One third of London buses to run on biodiesel blendA third of London’s buses will be running on cleaner-burning diesel made in part from waste fats and oils by March, after two operators signed deals with biodiesel producer Argent Energy.

Under the contracts signed by Stagecoach and Metroline, almost 3,000 of the capital’s 8,900 buses will be powered by B20 biodiesel (containing 20 per cent biodiesel) supplied by Argent. The fuel is made by blending mineral diesel with biodiesel from waste products, including cooking oil and tallow from the meat processing trade. Under Transport for London (TfL) requirements, all biodiesel used for London buses must be made from waste, rather than crop-based feedstocks.

TfL estimates that the switch will lead to a reduction of 21,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, with buses running on the waste-based fuel producing 10 per cent less ‘well to wheel’ carbon emissions than those using regular diesel.

As a trial ahead of the deal, 642 Stagecoach buses have been using the B20 blend for the past two months. No mechanical change will have to be made to the buses to run on the B20 blend, which will be made at Ardent’s London blending facility.

TfL working on emissions

London’s bus network currently uses a fleet of 8,900 buses to carry almost 2.4 billion passengers a year. Operation of the service uses around 240 million litres of fuel every year, but under the new deals, about 80 million litres of the biodiesel blend of fuel will now be consumed.

TfL has already achieved a 48,000 tonne CO2 reduction on the bus network’s 2013 levels following the introduction of over 1,500 hybrid electric buses and 15 pure electric buses. The number of hybrid buses is set to increase to over 1,700 by 2016, by which time such vehicles will make up over 20 per cent of the fleet.

TfL has also been trialling eight zero-emission hydrogen buses on a route between Covent Garden and Tower Gateway, and it will soon pilot inductive charging technology in East London to enable extended-range diesel electric hybrid buses to wirelessly charge their batteries at bus stops.

By 2020, as part of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which covers the same area of Central London as the Congestion Charge, TfL has committed to ensuring that all 300 single-decker buses are zero emission and all 3,100 double-decker buses are hybrid.

The ULEZ will be introduced in 2020 and will also require all cars, motrocycles, vans, buses and heavy goods vehicles to meet exhaust emission standards when travelling in Central London, or pay an additional charge.

The decision to implement the zone was taken to ensure that London meets legal limits set by the European Union for concentrations of pollutants in outdoors air. London is currently in breach of legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and an equivalent of 4,300 deaths in the city each year are attributed to air quality related illnesses.

Greenest bus fleet in the world

As a “leading global city”, London has an important role to play in reducing greenhouse gases and minimising its contribution to climate change, according to Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Matthew Pencharz.

Commenting on the new deals, he said: “Just a fortnight after the Mayor’s visit to the Paris conference on preventing global warming, I am very pleased to announce that nearly a third of London’s buses will now be running on biodiesel, slashing the overall carbon emissions of the fleet and making use of fuels that would otherwise be clogging up our drains. These buses will be a proud addition to what is already the greenest bus fleet in the world, including hybrid, pure electric and pure hydrogen vehicles.

“This is ongoing progress for running our bus fleets on waste products and cutting CO2. We will continue to work with our industry partners to use more of London’s used cooking oil turned into biodiesel right here in the city, creating green jobs and fuel self-sufficiency benefits.”

Mike Weston, TfL’s Director of Buses, added: “Our bus fleet is now making a major contribution to improving air quality and bringing down CO2 emissions. This improvement, which will reduce CO2 emissions by 21,000 tonnes each year, is being introduced now with no extra spend needed and no long delay for the fitting of new kit. It’s just one of a number of measures we are taking to make London’s environment better for everyone.”

Finally, Dickon Posnett, Development Director of Argent Energy, said: “The ever-growing demand to reduce greenhouse gases from transport is well recognised. TfL and the Greater London Authority have actually done the research and have now shown they have the understanding of the immediate benefits that high bio-blend diesel can bring. 

“They and London bus companies are leading the way in using this economic and simple option that can produce significant greenhouse gas reductions from bus fleets, here and now. The good example set here can only help to inform other UK cities that are also looking to make greenhouse gas savings.”

More information on its sustainability plan can be found on Transport for London’s website.