Lisbon bus project uses 100% used cooking oil as fuel

The second phase started in December 2019 and all six buses are now operating with 100% biodiesel from used cooking oils. [Prio]

Lisbon’s public transportation company Carris has joined forces with the private sector in a project aiming to boost sustainable mobility in the country’s capital through the use of 100% used cooking oils (UCO).

The “Powered by Biodiesel” project is a joint initiative between Carris and Prio, a leading advanced fuels and biofuels operator in Portugal.

Last July, the first phase was launched with three buses between Serafina and the Marquis of Pombal route in Lisbon running with B100.

The second phase started in December and all six buses are now operating on 100% biodiesel from used cooking oils.

“One of the city’s main bus routes is now 100% fueled with Prio’s B100, a diesel-equivalent which was engineered, developed and produced by Prio from used cooking oils,” Prio’s executive director Emanuel Proença told EURACTIV.

“This reduces the greenhouse gas emissions of traditional fossil fuels by 83% while also recycling and valuing a residue that has no alternative use and saving the world’s waters from this very pollutant material,” he said and added that the project was timely considering that Lisbon has been named Europe’s Green Capital for 2020.

With this project, Carris was able to immediately replace the use of fossil fuels at no extra capital cost, as the buses are the same and did not need adaptations, Proença said.

As part of the “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package, EU member states revised the Renewable Energy Directive in an effort to boost the use of renewables and help the bloc meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

The EU decided to set a 14% target for renewables in transport, 3.5% of which should be reserved for so-called advanced biofuels.

Speaking to EURACTIV at COP24 in December 2018, José Mendes, Portuguese first secretary of state for mobility, said all available sustainable options should be considered to decarbonise transport, meaning both biofuels and electromobility.

This year, the Portuguese government established the mandatory increase of biofuel use from 7% to 10%.

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Collecting UCO

The company is responsible for collecting the UCO from 600 recycling bins across the country. These bins are cleaner and have larger storage capacity than traditional ones, according to the company.

“We collect from throughout the country, but also from other countries in Europe and abroad, and we intend to continue growing our network of collection points, as we know that there is still a tremendous quantity of cooking oil that is not yet collected throughout Portugal and Europe,” Proença said.

The UCO then ends up in a factory in the port of Aveiro, in the centre-north of Portugal, where more than 80,000,000L UCO is processed annually.

“It’s a process that is probably the most efficient method today for producing liquid fuels with positive externalities and environmental benefits,” the company said.

Asked about the consumption cost compared to conventional biodiesel, he said Lisbon’s public transport company registered only a slight increase in consumption and fuel costs, which was well below initial expectations.

“The feedback that we have is that this solution is equivalent to better (i.e. cheaper, operationally more effective and faster to implement) than natural gas and electric bus alternatives (in which Carris is also very active). The benefits for the environment, energy transition and the EU economy as a whole are evident,” he added.

What is next?

EURACTIV also contacted João Vieira, the director of Carris, and asked him what is planned after the second phase, due to end in April.

“We expect to see how our customers and other city stakeholders react to this initiative, as we have cleared all technical questions in the first phase,” Vieira said.

“Before that, we are going to conduct an overall assessment of the pilot, which will determine whether we are to launch a tender for an acquisition of this type of fuel, turning this operation from an innovation ‘pilot’ project into one of our ‘regular’ operations,” the Carris director explained.

Vieira said the government’s reaction to the initiative has not been discussed yet, although “we may seek support if we decide to scale up the use of this type of fuel”.

“However, it is fair to note that the city of Lisbon, i.e. the local government, has always been supportive of this innovation activity,” Vieira concluded.

[Edited by Natasha Foote/Zoran Radosavljevic]


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