eTEC finds solution to glycerin glut

By | March 15, 2007
Researchers at eTEC Business Development Ltd., a biofuels research company based in Vienna, Austria, have devised mobile facilities that successfully convert the biodiesel by-product glycerin into electricity. The facilities, according to researchers, will provide substantial economic growth for biodiesel plants while turning glycerin into productive renewable energy.

"With every additional gallon of biodiesel being produced, it is becoming more evident that glycerin is turning into a significant issue," said Robert Hebenstreit, director of project development for eTEC. "Ever since biodiesel production began booming some years ago, Europe has been facing excess glycerin production issues, and the peak has not yet been reached."

Stable and virtually maintenance-free, eTEC's units consist of a glycerin processing module, a combustion engine with a generator and a control unit that is compatible with any biodiesel plant, according to Hebenstreit. The glycerin is burned in specially adapted engines to produce electricity. With the units low malfunction rate and compact design, it can be integrated into a transfer encasement, making it easy to be transported, assembled and moved from one biodiesel plant to another, Hebenstreit said.

Since the cost of electricity is expensive in Europe, biodiesel producers will be able to create their own electrical energy using the glycerin conversion process, ultimately offsetting the total costs of raw feedstock used in the production of biodiesel, Hebenstreit said.

In addition, heat is simultaneously released during the electricity conversion process, which can be used for district heating or for heating the tanking facilities of the biodiesel plant. In a further developing step, eTEC plans to reconvert the heat back into electricity. Hebenstreit said the excess electricity that the biodiesel plant doesn't use can also be fed into the main supply grid for use by European citizens at the eco-electricity rates sponsored by the European Union. "In Europe, having this kind of 'green' electricity would be supported by the local states, so it is quite profitable for biodiesel projects," Hebenstreit said.

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