Researchers plan to build glycerol-fuelled CHP station

Researchers in London have unveiled plans to build an experimental combined heat and power (CHP) station fuelled by glycerol.

Academics at Greenwich University aim to use the planned installation to find cost-effective and environmentally efficient ways of producing the sugar alcohol biofuel (also know as glycerine), including the possibility of using algae as a source for the fuel.

They will also use the power station, which will provide heat and electricity for the university’s Medway campus, to investigate the risks and the carbon footprint of glycerol, which is expected to be much lower than that of gas.

Prof Pat Harvey, who is leading the study, said in a statement: ‘This ambitious project puts Medway at the forefront of technological development in sustainable fuels.

‘We believe that we are the first university in the world to install a glycerol boiler and the findings of this research will have an important contribution to make to the global search for the biofuels of the future.’

Glycerol has many advantages over other energy sources as it is water-soluble, biodegradable, non-odorous, non-volatile and non-toxic and it produces virtually no combustion particulates.

It is typically made as a by-product of biodiesel production but is also produced by salt-water algae and so could become a biofuel that doesn’t reduce the amount of arable land available for food production.

The Greenwich researchers have been working with Kent-based company Aquafuel, which has developed a method altering a diesel engine so that it can burn glycerol at a higher efficiency rate than standard diesel.

The new initiative is backed by a €4.3m (£3.4m) grant from the European Development Fund and is part of Ecotec 21, an Anglo-French consortium set up to study CHP technology.