Biodiesel is produced by transesterification of vegetable oils with methanol. Glycerine is a major by-product of the transesterification process. Due to the rapid increase in biodiesel production capacity in Europe also the amount of glycerine has increased rapidly. The overall project objective is to produce methanol from crude glycerine, and re-use the methanol in the biodiesel plant. This project aims to improve the energy balance, carbon performance, sustainability and overall economics of biodiesel production. The work expands on expertise generated by the consortium on reforming of glycerine in supercritical water, and to produce a synthesis gas suitable for direct once-through methanol synthesis (GtM - Glycerine to Methanol). Producers will be less dependent on the methanol spot price, there is a (partial) security of methanol supply, and their by-product is used as a green, sustainable feedstock. Further development of the GtM technology should result in an economically viable process at the scale of the biodiesel plant (3,000-10,000 t glycerine/y). There are 2 secondary objectives. Firstly: To demonstrate the complete GtM process on laboratory and pilot plant scale. Specific targets are to achieve glycerine conversions >90%, and to produce a syngas with H2/CO > 1. The overall target is a yield of 50 wt% methanol from glycerine (energy efficiency > 70%). Secondly, to prepare a detailed design for a full-scale methanol production facility integrated in a biodiesel production plant, and establish production costs for the super methanol. Target is to produce methanol at a price below 250 EUR/tonne. The project involves 2 SME’s in the field of thermo-chemical processes, 2 industrial companies in the field of biodiesel production and high-pressure technologies, and 3 academic partners highly skilled in catalysts development, thermodynamics and process modelling.
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