Developing diesel

The Spanish University Rey Juan Carlos has begun research on the reuseable nature of glycerine, a by-product of biodiesel production from vegetable oils or animal fats.

According to the scientists, the main use of glycerin is in the synthesis of pharmaceutical products, and its use as an energy source is expensive. However, in this project the researchers plan to find more applications for the by-product, the quantity of which they expect to increase the more biodiesels are used.

In particular, the research group will investigate the transformation of glycerin into products that could partially replace diesel in a cost-competitive manner. It is said that when glycerin ethers are added to diesel in certain proportions, the viscosity and contaminant emissions of diesel are reduced.

The researchers are supported by data from the European Biodiesel Board. In 2005, more than three million tonnes of biodiesel were produced, representing a growth of 64.7 per cent compared with 2004. The growth continued in 2006, when five million tonnes were produced, and the researchers expect 10 million tonnes of biodiesel to be produced by 2010. With glycerin making up to 10 per cent of the fuel’s by-product, this would amount to one million tonnes of glycerin being produced, exceeding existing demands for the substance.