Glycerol carbonate as a fuel additive for a sustainable future

A recent study by a group of CCRC researchers have found that glycerol carbonate (GC) has great potential for cleaner combustion as a fuel additive.  The resulting paper was published as the cover of Sustainable Energy & Fuels journal.

Policy-makers and researchers have been considering a shift from conventional fossil fuels to renewable sources due to the growing concerns over global warming and diminishing oil reserves. Biodiesel, a renewable bio-driven fuel, can be derived from vegetable oils and animal fats, and is considered to be bio-degradable, non-toxic and environmentally friendly. Crude glycerol of about 10–20% by volume appears as a byproduct in biodiesel production. The increasing demand for biodiesel has led to a substantial increase of glycerol supply in the global market and a dramatic fall in the price of glycerol which has warranted alternative uses of glycerol. One potential way to deal with the crude glycerol overflow is to convert it to glycerol carbonate (GC) and use GC as a fuel or fuel additive.

“Researchers have previously tried to utilize glycerol for combustion applications but found it to be quite unsuitable due to its extremely high viscosity. This motivated us to explore derivatives of glycerol, and glycerol carbonate turned out to be the one with very high potential as a fuel additive. As a first step, we focused on a fundamental study to understand the pyrolysis of GC.”

In this work, they have explored possible reaction pathways in the initial stage of glycerol carbonate pyrolysis. Ab initio/RRKM-master equation methods were employed to differentiate various reaction pathways and to obtain the pressure- and temperature-dependence of the major channels. It is found that glycerol carbonate decomposes almost exclusively to produce CO2 and 3-hydroxypropanal over 800–2000 K, and radical forming channels are unimportant. As 3-hydroxypropanal is one of the main products of GC decomposition, and aldehydes are known to have a very high impact on soot reduction, it is concluded that GC has great potential for cleaner combustion as a fuel additive.

“As the next step, the feasibility studies of using GC as a fuel or in fuel blends for combustion applications are currently underway in our research group.” said Dr. Binod R. Giri

Glycerol carbonate as a fuel additive for a sustainable future
M. Szőri, B. R. Giri, Z. Wang, A. E. Dawood, B. Viskolcza and  A. Farooq

Sustainable Energy Fuels, 2018,2, 2171-2178 | article

- by Raheena Abdurehim