A team led by researchers at Western University in Ontario, Canada, has optimized a continuous flow process for synthesis of solketal, an alternative to methyl tert-butyl ether as an oxygenated gasoline fuel additive, from glycerol, a byproduct of biodiesel production. A paper on their work is published in the journal Fuel.
At optimum conditions (temperature of 25 °C, acetone-to-glycerol molar ratio of 4 and weight hour space velocity of 2 h−1) the maximum yield was obtained at 94 ± 2%.
They found that the presence of impurities such as water and salt in glycerol significantly reduced the yield at the optimum conditions.
The catalyst can be regenerated and reused for 24 hours with an insignificant sign of deactivation. The use of methanol as solvent at the optimal conditions proved to have potential to make the system more economical.
Malaya R. Nanda, Zhongshun Yuan, Wensheng Qin, Hassan S. Ghaziaskar, Marc-Andre Poirier, Chunbao (Charles) Xu (2014) “Catalytic conversion of glycerol to oxygenated fuel additive in a continuous flow reactor: Process optimization,” Fuel, Volume 128, Pages 113-119, doi: 10.1016/j.fuel.2014.02.068