Published on May 21, 2021

In the pursuit of cleaner aviation, new, less polluting fuels from renewable sources must be developed. Liquids generated from energy, following the Power-to-Liquid (PtL) process are one solution. Renewable energy, water and CO2 serve as first inputs. They can be used to generate Green Hydrogen and then enter the production process of various fuels and other materials.

But, these natural resources are not the only useful inputs. Glycerine can also serve as an ingredient for aviation fuels. An interesting option for further research?

This is how the ProQR Project – Alternative Fuels without Climate Impacts thought, when developing in 2019 the study called “Generation of Synthetic Aviation Fuels from Glycerin from Biodiesel Production”. Based on technical analyses, the study argues how powerful it can be to rethink the destination of Diesel production waste for the development of clean aviation fuels in Brazil.

Glycerin, also called glycerol, appears as a by-product in the production of biodiesel: For each ton, there is a quantity of 10% of glycerol. In Brazil then, the second largest biodiesel producer in the world, we find a huge amount of this material.

And you may be asking yourself: how can sustainable aviation benefit from this material in practice? Because the use of glycerol by-product is a technologically and chemically feasible method to produce sustainable synthetic fuels. The study explains how: from glycerol it is possible to produce synthesis gas (Syngas), which in turn is a pre-product of sustainable aviation fuel.

The study, prepared by Fabiola Correia, a researcher at the SENAI Institute for Renewable Energy Innovation – ISI/ER of Rio Grande do Norte, goes into more detail. It presents the technological processes of steam reforming, auto-thermal reforming, pyrolysis and partial oxidation syngas production, which are explored together with the physical-chemical properties of glycerol. Still, the author concludes that from the identification of environmentally friendly sources of syngas (CO, H2) and energy, involving Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, there is also the potential for production, of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) with competitive prices with the current JET A1.

In summary, the paper aims to demonstrate how the successful expansion of the biofuels industry in Brazil, which creates an abundance of glycerol as a by-product, can be quite important also for the production of synthetic fuels. Besides the possibility of diversifying the offer of more sustainable fuels, the use of these by-products is also in line with the circular economy: by using glycerin, the Biodiesel value chain is extended and still opens ways for new fuels without climate impacts.

Thus, valuing the vocations offered by the Brazilian context, this research is worth a lot. It provides information and arguments for a differentiated view on the multiple possible routes towards more sustainable fuels.

To access the study in Portuguese, click here.

Contributor to this article is Bárbara Correa.

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