Biofuels and Glycerol
The Glycerol Challenge investigates the feasibility of manufacturing value-added chemicals from glycerol. We are funded as part of the UK’s Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) Technology Programme. The project received funding in April 2007. By virtue of glycerol being a significant by-product from biodiesel manufacture, it is becoming a potentially important renewable feedstock. This site will tell you more about the challenge, who we are, and eventually our solutions. If you want to know more, then please contact us!
Our Free Online Webinar – “Value-added Molecules from Biodiesel By-product: The Glycerol Challenge!” attracted 40 people from all over the world. We would like to do more – are there any potential speakers out there?
If you wish to listen to the webinar click here. (10MB). You will also need to download the Interwise Participant software.
Biodiesel is biofuel which is helping to reduce dependence on petroleum. One concern regarding biodiesel production is what to do with the major by-product of biodiesel production, glycerol. A global glut of glycerol is occurring as industrialised nations move to substitute fossil fuels with more sustainable alternatives. Glycerol production in the United States already averages more than 350,000 tons per year and in Europe its production has tripled within the last ten years. Currently disposal of surplus glycerol is by incineration.
During the manufacture of biodiesel via the transesterification of oils from plants such as rape, soya and palm, 100kg of glycerol (also known as glycerin) is produced for every 1 tonne biodiesel. In Europe alone, the production of glycerol has tripled within the last 10 years to ca. 600 thousand metric tonnes per year. This can only increase further as Europe implements EU directive 2003/30/EC which targets 5.75% incorporation of biofuel to be achieved by 2010. Finding value-added alternatives to glycerol incineration would assist with the environmental benefits and economic viability of biodiesel manufacture and the biofuel supply chain.
Glycerol (propane 1,2,3 triol) is a potentially valuable building block molecule.
Various catalytic solutions exist to convert glycerol into a valuable products
The objective of the project is to develop a chemisty and reactor engineering solution to manufacture sustainable products from this glut of 10% glycerol co-product which accompanies plant oil-derived biodiesel. The exploitation of process intensified reactor technologies would enable rapid implementation at both distributed and centralised manufaturing facilities. The products would be carbon neutral and potentially be a means of actually sequestering CO2. An integrated supply chain which supports the agricultural, chemical and transportation sectors would be developed.
Biodiesel-derived Glycerol News and Events
In the UK, the Environment Agency which regulates the industry differentiates between biodiesel-derived glycerol, based on its origin. This poses a particular challenge for the many small scale biodiesel producers who recycle cooking oils.
Extract from the Environmental Agency website, May 2007
Glycerol produced from virgin oil
Where energy crops provide the feedstock, both biodiesel and the glycerol may be produced for their energy content. We have concluded that glycerol from virgin crops is a product of the process and not a waste.
Glycerol produced from used vegetable oil/fat
Used vegetable oil is waste. According to current case law, wastes which are processed for use as a fuel normally remain waste until they are burned, The only exception is for waste fuel oils, which may cease to be waste if they are processed so that they are physically and chemically indistinguishable from the original fuel. On the basis of this:
- biodiesel produced from waste vegetable oil is defined as a waste. We have taken a low risk position to the regulation of this material.
- the glycerol produced is also a waste, and must comply with the regulatory regime