Oleochemicals: Oleon enters glycerin-based propylene glycol

Author: Doris De Guzman


Belgian oleochemical firm Oleon transforms a former fatty alcohol plant into a glycerin-based propylene glycol facility


Oleon marks its bio-based PG plant opening in Ertvelde, Belgium

Belgium-based oleochemical firm Oleon has expanded its portfolio with glycerin-based propylene glycol (PG).

Oleon officially inaugurated its new monopropylene glycol (MPG) unit at its Ertvelde site, with a capacity to produce more than 20,000 tonnes/year of glycerin-based PG. The refined glycerin is obtained as a by-product in the manufacturing of oleochemicals and biodiesel using animal fats and vegetable oils as feedstock.


Germany-based BASF has developed and licensed the bio-based PG production process. BASF also supplies the catalysts for the bio-based PG process.

"The start-up of this bio-PG unit was preceded by three years of development in cooperation with BASF," said Oleon CEO Chris Depreeuw. "This represents an investment of €8.2m [$10.3m] mainly in the transformation of the former fatty alcohol plant."

PG, an alcohol, has traditionally been produced through hydrolysis of propylene oxide. BASF said the glycerin-based process requires fewer production steps than hydrolysis, increasing the efficiency of Oleon's bio-PG production.

Depreeuw estimates the global PG market to exceed 2m tonnes. PG is used in products such as antifreeze, de-icing fluids, unsaturated polyester resins, detergents and cosmetics.

Another glycerin-based PG producer is US agribusiness firm Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), which started its 100,000 tonne/year facility in Decatur, Illinois, last year producing US Pharmacopeia (USP) grade and industrial-grade PG. ADM also has the capability to manufacture PG from sorbitol, a corn-derived sugar alcohol.

In China, Global Bio-chemical Technology Group has been making its corn-based PG since 2007 at its 200,000 tonne/year plant in Jilin, Province.