Could Glycerin from Biodiesel Enter an $18 Billion Market?

A Canadian company uses a China facility to prove glycerin glycol process
By Luke Geiver | May 12, 2011

S2G Biochemicals knows what to do with glycerin byproduct created through biodiesel production and, after attending an investment event that allowed the company to present its abilities to a group of Silicon Valley investors, a lot more people might now know what it does with glycerin too. The company has developed a process that converts renewable sugars like C6 glucose or fructose, C5 xylose or arabinose, or most importantly for biodiesel producers, C3 glycerin. According to the company, “The two-stage, sugar-to-glycol process involves a catalytic hydrogenation” of the feedstocks to intermediate alditols (e.g., xylose to xylitol), which is followed by a second hydrogenolysis stage that converts the alditols to mixed glycols. Those glycols can then enter what the company says is an $18 billion market for glycols.

S2G Biochemicals employs a continuous, liquid phase reaction at high temperatures and pressures using metal catalysts it says are widely available and economical. “The overall conversion efficiency is 85 to 95 percent.” Working with International Polyol Chemical Inc., a sugar-to-glycol hydrocracking technology developer, the company put the process to the test in 2005 at a Northern China pilot plant and in 2007, it built a 200,000 ton per year plant that boasts $200 million in revenue per year, according to the company. S2G Biochemicals already partnered with an engineering firm and Lignol Innovations Corp. to test Lignol’s C5/C6 “soup” with the glycol production process.

Dallas Kachan, managing partner of Kachan & Co., a cleantech consulting firm that helped put on the event, explained that the investment firms present liked what they saw.

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