Frugal Fuels: Top 12 ways to transform biofuels using materials already around us

recycleREduce, REuse, REcycle. REnewable energy sometimes means REthinking, REfocusing.

Great ideas abound for new feedstocks, and novel infrastructure. We admire so many of them. Jatropha, carinata, switchgrass, sweet sorghum, blender pumps, systems-at-sea. And so much more.

But what about technologies that bolt-on a different processing unit, but keeps everything else the same. Or uses an abundant, odious and low cost feedstock?

That’s a frugal fuel. In these nefarious economic times, why not make do with what’s already in place?

Here are our Top 12 ways to transform biofuels using materials – usually waste by-products, or lower-value materials – already around us?

12. Glycerine.

There’s a small market for glycerin as a building block material, but it has been overwhelmed by the supply coming from some biodiesel operators who have been producing a pure enough glycerine for sale into the industrial glycerin market – many biodiesel operators haven’t been able to produce it at sufficient purity and it has been distributed at very little value into the feed market, or even landfilled.

Then, along come numerous technologies aimed at converting glycerine from a low-value product into a high-value target material, such as isoprene (the main ingredient in synthetic rubber).

In Spain, Universitat Juame researchers have developed a process to turn biodiesel waste into yet more valuable products.  Any industrial process produces waste – including biodiesel.  One such product is glycerine.  The UJI Organic Synthesis research group has demonstrated a process to turn glycerine into glycerol carbonate which is used for processes involved in a range of products from cosmetics to plastics.

Then, there’s GlycosBio – they’ve set up shop in Malaysia to produce Bio-SIM (Bio-based Synthetic Isoprene Monomer), a specialty chemical that is in short supply globally with cost and yield advantages over petroleum based Isoprene and Isoprene from sugar based feedstocks.


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