PITA Fiscal Year 2011 Projects

Glycerol Recovery from Biodiesel Mixture and Conversion to High Value Products

Lead University: Lehigh University
PI: Dr. James T. Hsu, Department of Chemical Engineering
Co-PI(s): Dr. Lori Herz, Bioengineering Program
PA Industry: MOR Supercritical, LLC

Over the past couple of decades fatty acid methly esters derived from vegetables oils and animal fats have assumed importance as potential diesel fuel extenders known as "biodiesel". For every nine kilograms of biodiesel produced, about one kilogram of a crude glycerol by-product is formed; and today biodiesel production plants are in need of methods to realize the increase of the income from this glycerol. If crude natural glycerol could be converted to other high value hydrocarbons, this technology could be used in biodiesel production plants to increase profitability. Prefered technology would convert glycerol at moderate temperatures and pressures, and requiring less capital and operating costs.

In this project, there are two key subjects will be investigated. The first one is to develop the separation process to fractionate glycerol from the biodiesel mixture to produce high purity glycerol. The second one is to search and develop the conversion processes to convert glycerol to high value hydrocarbons. Finally the overall process economy will be evaluated.