Traditionally, biodiesel manufacturers have been using old cooking oil—an exhausted grease that has been promoted from the deep fryer to a traded commodity with the prices fluctuating from between 43 cents to 53 cents a litre.
But one innovative Toronto-based company has a unique process for making fuel from coffee grounds with a locked down oil price of just 25 cents a litre.
Started only 14 months ago, Energy Innovation Corp. (EIC) already has a bio diesel manufacturing facility in Port Colborne, Ont. where truckers are pulling in to fill their tanks with 100 per cent biodiesel.
The business has been built on the idea that waste stock such as coffee grounds could be used to make biodiesel. President and CEO Jon Dwyer and his family travelled North America and Europe to do their research, and ended up spending about $1 million to get this concept percolating, with help from the University of Toronto and Guelph University in Guelph, Ont.
The coffee grounds are harvested from a waste management company that services one of Canada’s largest coffee makers, which due to a non-disclosure agreement EIC is unable to name.
Harvested grounds are brought back to the Port Colborne facility where they’re loaded into a machine that shakes the coffee grounds, separating them from the used filters.
The grounds are then put into an extruder that crushes the coffee, extracting the oil and water. The oil, naturally, settles above the water where it is siphoned off.
The next step is really innovative.
During the initial research and development EIC found a company in Port Colborne that has an innovative biodiesel reactor technology.
“You make biodiesels in two ways—using a liquid catalyst or a solid catalyst,” says Dwyer. “We chose this company because its liquid catalyst uses potassium hydroxide (K0H) and methanol.”
“It’s probably the most basic way to make biodiesel, but what’s so innovative about what they do is they have a thermostatic technology,” he continues.
Between the two chemicals used, methanol is the most expensive input. But with EIC’s system, the finished biofuel is transferred into heated tanks topped with vacuums.
“Methanol boils at about 148 degrees, [so] we boil the biofuel for eight hours at 160 degrees, which causes the methanol to vapourize and rise to the top where it’s caught by the vacuum,” says Dwyer. “Then we take that [vapourized methanol] and put it in a cooling tank.”