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Glycerol as a by-product of biodiesel production in Brazil: Alternatives for the use of unrefined glycerol

Leoneti, Alexandre Bevilacqua, Aragão-Leoneti, Valquiria, de Oliveira, Sonia Valle Walter Borges
Renewable energy 2012 v.45 pp. 138-145
additives, anaerobic digestion, biodiesel, energy, ethanol, feeds, fuel cells, glycerol, hydrogen production, markets, methanol, raw materials, transesterification, waste treatment, Brazil
On January 1 2008, Brazil included yet another element into its energy matrix: biodiesel. The predominant biodiesel production process involves a phase of transesterification that yields glycerol as a by-product. The use of this glycerol is limited since it is considered an unrefined raw material that must be refined for its various types of use. Several studies have addressed identification of possible uses for unrefined glycerol. Given the diversity of uses, an overview is necessary. The purpose of this work is to present alternatives currently being considered for the use of unrefined glycerol as a by-product of biodiesel production, aiming to contribute to the sustainable consolidation of the biofuel market. Exploratory research was carried out to identify these viable alternatives for the use of this by-product. The possibilities include the production of chemical products, fuel additives, production of hydrogen, development of fuel cells, ethanol or methanol production, animal feed, co-digestion and co-gasification, and waste treatment among others. The present research reveals that there are promising possibilities for the use of unrefined glycerol, which may help consolidate the sustainability of the biofuel market.