From Glycerine to Green Chemicals Part 1

Biodiesel Transesterification

Biodiesel Transesterification

Guess what?! There is still a lot to know about what to do with the increasing amount of generated glycerol (also glycerine, glycerin) obtained by biodiesel production. Besides the well established sell of purified glycerine to manufacturers of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals a variety of novel conversion techniques are introduced. This article is intended to be an extension of the previously published blog-post: Glycerol – The Recovery of a High Potential Industrial By Product. Much basic information is given in the previous post. The present document provides an overview about ongoing industrial and commercial solutions. Today, glycerine is an oversupplied global commodity chemical and new technologies for its conversion into value added green chemicals are to be established. According to experts, the price for glycerine is at historical lows. Therefore, increasing research is performed to evaluate economic feasible processes.

1,3 Propanediol

METabolic EXplorer (Metex), a French green chemistry company announced the construction of a bio – 1,3 propanediol production plant in Malaysia using crude glycerine as feedstock. The plant is intended for a final production capacity of 50,000 tons per year and is expected to have an initial production of 8,000 tons. This venture is in partnership with the Malaysian biotechnology park Bio XCell (biotech hub) and will receive a substantial financial backing from the Malaysian government. 1,3 Propanediol is used in the fabrication of a variety of industrial products.

Isoprene, Ethanol and Aceton

The American company Glycos Biotechnologies has made definitive agreements with Malaysian biotech hub Bio-XCell for the establishment of an industrial biochemical plant and biotechnology R&D facility in Malaysia. Glycos Biotechnologies plans to focus on creating bio – isoprene to support Malaysia’s rubber industry. As the prices for natural rubber have skyrocketed this year synthetic rubbers gain increasing attention. Isoprene is a key compound in synthetic rubber fabrication. The new biorefinery (20,000 – 40,000 tons / year) is projected to be complete in 2012 and will produce crude glycerol based green chemicals such as ethanol, isoprene and acetone.

Why Malaysia?

So why did these companies decide to go to Malaysia? As Doris de Guzman from the ICIS Green Chemicals Blog agrees with me, this is due to several reasons. This country is the biggest Asian biodiesel producer and the world’s largest manufacturer of palm oil derived fatty acids. With tons of palm oil based glycerine derived thereof, being a booming biotech hub and additionally generous financial support from the Malaysian government, this country seems to be the perfect location.

Further commercially manufactured green chemicals derived from glycerine will be published within the next few days!

Update: The second part of this article is already online!

Related posts: