BACKGROUND: Glycerine, a main by-product of the biodiesel manufacturing process, has potential to be an important biorefinery feedstock with the rapid increase in biodiesel production all over the world. Hydrothermal experiments with glycerine were carried out at 250 °C using H2O2 as an oxidant.
RESULTS: Glycerine was converted into formic acid with a yield of 31.0% based on the starting mass of carbon in glycerine. A possible oxidation pathway for the formation of formic acid from glycerine is proposed. In the proposed pathway, glycerine may first be oxidised and then decomposed into formic acid and oxalic acid. Oxalic acid was indirectly attributed to the increase of formic acid production from glycerine, but it instead acts as a retardant to prevent further oxidation of formic acid. However, when an alkali was added to the experimental conditions, the yield of formic acid was not greatly improved, reaching only 34.7%.
CONCLUSION: The present work should help to facilitate further studies to develop a new green process for the production of formic acid from renewable biomass. © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry