The U of Missouri (MU) has developed a process for converting glycerin, a byproduct of biodiesel production, to popylene glycol, a nontoxic antifreeze. This technology can reduce the cost of biodiesel production by as much as $0.40 per gallon of biodiesel said Glen Suppes, inventor of the process and chief science officer of the MU-based Renewable Alternatives.
Currently, ethylene glycol is prominently used in vehicular antifreeze and is both toxic and made from petroleum. Suppes said the new propylene glycol product will meet every performance standard, is made from domestic soybeans and is nontoxic.
Right now, Renewable Alternatives is licensing this technology to three biodiesel plants, with a fourth one in the works.
This could be a good step in decreasing the cost of biodiesel and providing a non-petroleum chemical. Reducing the cost of biodiesel is a big deal if it is ever to compete, on its own, with petroleum diesel. The real problem with US biodiesel is that it is primarily made from soybeans. At least we could make it from canola (rapeseed) which would double the yield per acre and decrease its cost. We do not have enough land to produce enough biodiesel from soybeans to have a real impact on reducing our dependence on oil. Diesel from algae, the UW process or gasification/Fischer-Tropsch processes need to be developed for biodiesel to have a real impact.
Resouce: "Chemical Engineering Professor Develops New Biodiesel Process", Research at MU news release, 8/12/05