Understanding catalysis for processing glycerol and glycerol-based derivatives for the production of value added chemicals
An increase in biodiesel production has seen a dramatic increase in the production of glycerol, the main by-product. To maintain biodiesel production as economically viable, processes for valorising the 10 wt% glycerol waste stream need to be developed. The content of this chapter discusses recent work which examines potential catalytic processes for producing value added chemicals using glycerol as a platform chemical. Significant research has focussed on catalytic reactions tailored to selectively convert oxygenates from biological resources to produce valuable chemicals. While homogenous and biological catalytic processes are important, heterogeneously catalysed reactions are considered to be more desirable and potentially more economically viable due to advantages in feedstock processing. The current transesterification process associated with biodiesel production results in a number of contaminants in the glycerol stream, such as free fatty acids and residual catalyst salts, which affects downstream processing. Special emphasis is given to understand how contaminants of various by-products interact with surfaces and identify robust catalysts while examining alternative catalytic processes for producing biodiesel with purer product streams.