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Britain’s first ‘poo bus’ has gone into service. It runs a dedicated route between Bristol and Bath. It’s powered by a methane/propane mix, methane generated by anaerobic bacteria fed a mix of human and food waste.

The engine design is not much different from a diesel bus. The gas is stored in that bulgy bit on the roof; it’ll go 186 miles on a tankful.

Well. I dunno. I’m not opposed to things like this on principle, just on account of I’m a heartless gaia-h8r. I’m opposed to things like this because every time you look closer, it’s a shell game. Wonderful clean free energy comes out one end, but grubby wasteful things go on behind the curtain first.

There are clues in the article. It says the fuel burns with 30% less carbon emissions, for example. But it says earlier the methane is “upgraded” by removing carbon dioxide and adding propane. So, is the carbon comparable but simply unlocked during manufacture rather than use? Not that I object to a bit of good old CO2, y’unnerstand, I’m just doing a veracity check here.

It says one person’s annual food and personal waste will fuel the bus for 37 miles, so five people for a whole tank. A year’s worth of solid waste from five people for one refueling. That sounds like a big process. I mean, big tanks, big mixers, big energy consumption. Big investment.

The Bristol sewage treatment plant processes 35,000 tonnes (that’s a fancy British metric ton) of food waste and 75 million cubic meters of shit every year. In the process, they make 17 million cubic meters of this here biomethane. So, eh. Maybe they have figured out a way to do their sewage treatment job and squeeze some free energy out of it in the process. If so, good for them.

But I wouldn’t mind seeing some numbers on that.


Comment from caseyreno
Time: November 20, 2014, 6:30 pm

It’s 1:30 PM ET… Why aren’t there any comments?

Is everyone too pooped? (Yeah, like I was going to let that one pass)

Comment from thefritz
Time: November 20, 2014, 7:05 pm

The article is bullshit….er…peopleshit.

Comment from ocareha8er
Time: November 20, 2014, 7:52 pm

Looks like a shitty mode of transportation to me.

However, if they had one of those in DC, a weeks worth of THAT shit would run that sucker for-EVER!!!

Or hook owlgores mouth to it, now THAT my friends is the ultimate in renewable energy.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: November 20, 2014, 8:33 pm

“Biogas” is about 50% CO2, which just retards the burning. If you bubble it through a Calcium hydroxide solution, the CO2 gets removed.
All in all, I’d guess that they’re spending way more per passenger/mile than diesel. That important thing to these types is that it LOOKS like they’re doing something

Comment from Bikeboy
Time: November 20, 2014, 9:11 pm

All Britons should switch to high-fiber diets for queen and country!

Comment from Anonymous
Time: November 20, 2014, 10:00 pm

Seems like it would have been easier to pipe it straight to a power plant and turn it into electricity, but that’s not as showy I guess.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: November 20, 2014, 10:23 pm

Sorry, I just can’t resist… 😉


Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: November 20, 2014, 10:53 pm

” But I wouldn’t mind seeing some numbers on that. ”

Stoaty, this is about the ENVIRONMENT!

You already know the numbers aren’t worth squat.

Comment from A Solar Powered Crank aka Some Vegetable
Time: November 20, 2014, 11:11 pm

This kind of project is, I guess, a worthy use of taxpayer money, as long as it isn’t MY taxpayer money. It’s interesting but simply can’t be justified in any meaningful way. Reduction in pollutants isn’t substantial enough, fuel generation costs are high, and, if you’ll forgive me, this kind of shit is never going to be spread across the country.

There’s a link to another example of the same kind of ‘kids playing science’ on the same page as the poo-bus story. It talks about the Ecolink Biofuel buses tested in Nottingham. The link goes to an article about the start-up in 2008, but naturally the BBC has no follow up. So, out of curiosity, I did quick Google search to see how the test worked out. I found an article from 2010 which stated:

The annual additional fuel cost of an ethanol bus compared to a diesel equivalent is around £25,000. There have been no additional operating costs, other than for ethanol-specific engine oil which is some £1000 per year per bus extra. In addition, the capital costs of such buses are around £40k per bus, adding some £4k per bus per
annum to depreciation costs.
See? Only £30k per bus per year. So little of your money to save some penguin from inhaling an extra 50 PPM of CO2, and surely enough reduction to offset 30 years of coming Chinese coal-powered electric plants!

Old Fart that I am, I just have trouble with a lot of this stuff, as it seems to me that only naive true-believers could think these Rube Goldberg ideas could ever work successfully. My current favorite idealist idiocy is the Ivanpah Solar power plant.

I’m going to select some excerpts from a Yahoo article for your entertainment:

Sprawling across roughly 5 square miles of federal desert near the California-Nevada border, the [$2 Billion Dollar] Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System opened in February…So far, however, the plant is producing about half of its expected annual output for 2014, according to calculations by the California Energy Commission…It had been projected to produce its full capacity for 8 hours a day, on average.

“Factors such as clouds, jet contrails and weather have had a greater impact on the plant than the owners anticipated,” the agency said in a statement…When the $2.2 billion complex opened, Energy Department Secretary Ernest Moniz called it a “symbol of the exciting progress” in renewable energy…Problems include getting the thousands of mirrors pointed in precisely the right direction, especially in the cool early morning, or keeping them clean in the dusty Mojave Desert…State energy regulators in August approved the plant’s request to increase the natural gas it is allowed to burn by 60 percent…Operators initially expected to need steam from gas-powered boilers for an hour a day during startup. After operations began, they found they needed to keep boilers running more than four times longer — an average of 4 1/2 hours a day.


So, the plant burns 60% more natural gas than anticipated because they are having trouble aiming thousands of mirrors and having trouble keeping the dust off of them. Who could have anticipate trouble keeping thousands of mirrors pointed correctly and dust free in the farking desert? Who could have dreamed that the sun wouldn’t shine at 100 percent intensity every day of the year? My favorite thing though is blaming jet contrails. What percent of the sky is covered by jet contrails out there? However, there are some benefits to the project, if you like your birds roasted…..


Comment from Solar A Powered Crank aka Some Vegetable
Time: November 20, 2014, 11:16 pm

Rats, I ranted and pissed off Akismet by putting in too many links to back up my rant. Pooh.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: November 21, 2014, 12:07 am

I kicked it out of the spam bucket for you, Some Veg. So now your second comment looks weird.

Comment from Mr. Dave
Time: November 21, 2014, 12:43 am

I don’t even mind the poo smell hereabouts as long as that “thing” got pushed down the page. Ghastly.

Comment from Veeshir
Time: November 21, 2014, 2:15 am

You have to remember the most important thing about Green Science, it’s neither.

You can spend your time on the intertubes proving that each time or you can just use it to look at boobies.

I know what I do.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: November 21, 2014, 3:11 am

Oh, I lived in Philadelphia for a few years, people shitting in buses aren’t news.

Comment from Mojo
Time: November 21, 2014, 5:51 pm

When they start touting poo-powered stoves, then you can worry.

Comment from jwm
Time: November 21, 2014, 6:44 pm

^ solar powered crank…
On the Nevada solar monstrosity. Not to mention that it absolutely trashes a HUGE chunk of the Mojave. It’s also like driving past a miniature sun shining out off the roadside just a few hundred feet off the desert floor. Not exactly easy on the eyes.


Comment from make wonderful tinder
Time: November 22, 2014, 8:12 am

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Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: November 25, 2014, 3:33 am

Mojo @ November 21, 2014, 5:51 pm: When they start touting poo-powered stoves, then you can worry.

What, you never had a steak grilled out on the prairie over a fire of buffalo chips?


A few years ago someone (Michael Yon?) reported on a genuinely interesting technology. It was a system where household sewage (i.e. “nightsoil”) was routed to a fermenter that generated and collected methane for household cooking (and heating?). The unit didn’t cost that much, and each installation saved some considerable amount of wood or other fuels.

They were being deployed in considerable numbers in Afghanistan, IIRC (which is why I think Yon was who reported it); also in Nepal and Vietnam, among other countries.

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