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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Glycerol as a platform chemical: sweet opportunities on the horizon?

Author
item Kenar, James

Submitted to: Lipid Technology
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 10, 2007
Publication Date: November 14, 2007
Citation: Kenar, J.A. 2007. Glycerol as a platform chemical: sweet opportunities on the horizon? Lipid Technology. 19(11):249-253.

Interpretive Summary: Glycerin, a principle constituent of all fats and oils, is the major value added byproduct produced from oil and fat during oleochemical and biodiesel manufacturing processes. With the burgeoning growth of the biodiesel industry (approximately one ton of glycerin is produced for every ten tons of biodiesel), the global manufacture of glycerin is expected to increase by about 70,000 metric tons in 2006 from biodiesel alone. The price of glycerin has dropped dramatically over the past few years because this surplus glycerol cannot be absorbed by the glycerin market. Although glycerol has many commercial uses, these markets are generally considered mature making it difficult to absorb the extra glycerin surpluses. This review summarizes current knowledge about glycerin and the many varied reactions being developed to deal with the excess glycerin produced by the biodiesel industry. The information is of interest to researchers working on in these areas, and will help them generate new insights and ideas regarding the transformations and uses of the glycerol molecule.

Technical Abstract: Increased global production of biodiesel since the late-1990s has created an abundance of crude glycerin that has significantly impacted the glycerin market resulting in a decline in glycerin pricing. Because the economic viability of the biodiesel and oleochemical industries are closely linked to glycerol, the deterioration of glycerol prices negatively affects the cost of materials derived from these industries. Although glycerol has many commercial uses, these markets are generally considered mature making it difficult to absorb the extra glycerin surpluses. The increasing abundance of glycerin, its renewability, and attractive pricing make glycerol (80% crude glycerin spot price December 2005; USD = 0.12/lb, EUR = 140/metric ton) an appealing platform chemical to derive a family of commercially valued compounds. To this end, new chemistry to convert glycerol into high volume value-added products is being developed. This article gives a brief historical background of glycerol and examines recent technological developments to exploit glycerol as a versatile primary chemical building block in an effort to expand glycerol applications and utilize surplus stockpiles of glycerin.

Last Modified: 12/18/2014
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