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Eni and BASF launch R&D initiative to convert bio-diesel byproduct to bio-propanol; drop-in component for gasoline

Eni and BASF have signed a strategic agreement on a joint R&D initiative to reduce the CO2 footprint of the transportation sector. The cooperation aims to develop a new technology to produce advanced bio-propanol from glycerin, a side stream of the production of industrial biodiesel (FAME, fatty acid methyl ester), that Eni will purchase from European producers.

The technology under development involves the conversion of glycerin to propanol via an innovative, catalytic hydrotreatment process.

The new approach consists of a process of applying a high-pressure hydrogenation reaction over a BASF catalyst, ensuring that the bio-propanol is produced with a high yield and purity while minimizing by-products. The bio-propanol offers the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65 to 75% compared to fossil fuels.

Propanol obtained via this innovative method can be easily added as a drop-in bio-fuel component to gasoline. Thanks to its better physicochemical properties compared to bioethanol and its very high-octane number, bio-propanol is a valuable component for the preparation of premium gasoline.

More than half of the world’s glycerin production originates as a by-product of the biodiesel industry: every ton of biodiesel produces approximately 10% glycerin. As a result of increasing biodiesel production, the world’s glycerin production increased from 200,000 t/y in 2003 to approximately 5,000,000 t/y in 2020.

Being a vegetable residue, glycerin is classified as an advanced bio-feedstock, according to the European RED II directive (Renewable Energy Directive, Annex IX part A).

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