Virent Energy Systems has been awarded a $2-million dollar grant from the US Departments of Agriculture and Energy to develop further its capabilities to convert glycerol, a co-product of biodiesel production, into renewable propylene glycol, a high-value chemical usually made from fossil fuels.
Virent is the developer of an aqueous phase reforming (APR) process for the conversion of readily available biomass-generated feedstocks, such as glucose, sucrose, sorbitol and glycerol to carbon neutral hydrogen, fuel gas or value-added chemicals. (Earlier post.)
This competitive grant was awarded as part of the joint USDA-DOE Biomass Research and Development Initiative, the purpose of which is to support development of technologies that help make bio-based fuels commercially cost-competitive with fossil fuels.
Working in conjunction with FutureFuel Chemical Company—formerly the Arkansas Operations unit of Eastman Chemical Company—Virent will optimize its yields of propylene glycol using glycerol of varying qualities.
FutureFuel Chemical Company will supply the glycerol and help design and then test the first prototype system at its Batesville, Arkansas biodiesel plant. Other competitive methods to generate renewable propylene glycol require the addition of hydrogen, a costly step not needed by Virent’s BioForming technology platform.
Propylene glycol is a component of personal care products, de-icing and antifreeze products, liquid detergents, paints, and resins. More than 2.6 billion pounds of propylene glycol, with a total market value of $1.7 billion, are sold each year worldwide.
Virent Energy Systems’ investors include Cargill and Honda.