Glycerin-based PG plant in Europe

Greetings green blog fans! I am still fighting off jetlag but there had been soooo many news within the past two weeks that I have a lot of catching up to do before going on another 1-week vacation (my final one this year) starting July 20.

Let me start with a favorite topic of mine – glycerin. I have been covering the glycerin market since September 2000 when I first started as staff editor at Chemical Market Reporter (the magazine now evolved into ICIS Chemical Business).

Since then, I’ve reported numerous times on how this industry has constantly been looking for new applications for glycerin given that this is a plentiful byproduct of oleochemical and biodiesel manufacture. It is only after a decade that some of the new uses that I’ve reported in the past have now come into large commercialization such as in glycerin-based epichlorohydrin (ECH) and propylene glycol (PG).

Last week, Belgium-based oleochemical company Oleon announced that it has started up its new 20,000+ tonnes/year glycerin-based PG in Ertvelde using a former fatty alcohol plant. The production process has been developed and licensed by BASF in collaboration with Oleon. BASF also supplies the catalysts for the bio-based PG process.

Official commissioning of the new bio-PG plant in Ertvelde, Belgium

PG has historically been produced by hydrolysis using propylene oxide. BASF’s glycerin-based process is said to have fewer production steps. Annual global PG market exceeds 2m tonnes, according to Oleon.

PG is used in products such as antifreeze, de-icing, unsaturated polyester resins, detergents and cosmetics.

In the US, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) started its 100,000 tonnes/year glycerin-based PG in Decatur, Illinois, last year, producing USP grade and industrial-grade PG. ADM also has the capability to manufacture PG from sorbitol, a corn-derived sugar alcohol.

The blog recalled in the past that Huntsman and Dow Chemical also had plans to make glycerin-based PG. Both chemical companies as well as Arch Chemical and Lyondell are major petroleum-based PG producers.

According to ICIS, market participants in North America expected about 2,268 tonnes of refined glycerin will be used in the glycol market this year.

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