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Is there a future in glycerol as a feedstock in the production of biofuels and biochemicals?

Authors


Correspondence to: Fredric Bauer, Lund University, Dep. of Chemical Engineering, P.O. Box 124 Lund SE-221 00, Sweden.

E-mail: fredric.bauer@chemeng.lth.se

Abstract

Glycerine is a chemical with a wide variety of uses. There are over 2000 known applications in cosmetics, foodstuffs, fine chemicals, and other industries. With the recent boom for liquid biofuels however, glycerine – which is a by-product mainly of biodiesel production – has become abundant. New uses for the chemical are being researched, but little attention has been paid to the production and supply of glycerine. This perspective shows that the development of liquid biofuels is a key point for the future glycerine market. Glycerine could become available in large volumes from the production not only of biodiesel but also bioethanol. Second-generation biofuels, cellulose-based bioethanol, and algal biodiesel will continue to produce large quantities of glycerine. However, new technology pathways such as glycerine-to-methanol and glycerine-to-ethanol could rapidly change the market situation. Instead of viewing glycerine as a waste, biofuel producers may come to view the by-product as a valuable resource for their own production processes. This could rapidly change the market situation for other industries which now rely on the glycerine supply from the biofuels industry. © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

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