• BASF and Eni

Eni, BASF launch new-tech initiative to produce propanol from glycerin


Eni and BASF have signed a strategic agreement on a joint R&D initiative to reduce the CO2 footprint of the transportation sector.

The cooperation aims to develop a new technology to produce advanced biopropanol from glycerin, a side stream of the production of industrial biodiesel, which Eni will purchase from European producers. The technology under development involves the conversion of glycerin to propanol via an innovative, catalytic hydrotreatment process.

The new approach consists of a process of applying a high-pressure hydrogenation reaction over a BASF catalyst, ensuring that the biopropanol is produced with a high yield and purity while minimizing byproducts. The biopropanol offers the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65 to 75 percent compared to fossil fuels.

Propanol obtained via this innovative method can be easily added as a drop-in biofuel component to gasoline. Thanks to its better physicochemical properties compared to bioethanol and its very high octane number, biopropanol is a valuable component for the preparation of premium gasoline.

More than half of the world’s glycerin production originates as a byproduct of the biodiesel industry: every ton of biodiesel produces approximately 10 percent glycerin. As a result of increasing biodiesel production, the world’s glycerin production increased from 200,000 tons per year in 2003 to approximately 5 million tons per year in 2020. Being a vegetable residue, glycerin is classified as an advanced biofeedstock, according to Europe’s RED II (Renewable Energy Directive, Annex IX part A).

“We are proud to support the development of the advanced biopropanol by contributing the best catalyst, with high efficiency and a long lifetime,” said Detlef Ruff, an executive with BASF. “The opportunity to collaborate with strong industry partners like Eni is a major driver for innovation and growth for us.”

Luisa Lavagnini, head of research and technological innovation at Eni, said, “Glycerin-to-advanced-biopropanol technology is part of Eni’s research and development commitment towards decarbonization. This collaboration, which allows us to accelerate innovation and dramatically decrease time to market, is consistent with Eni’s strategy for the development of ‘advanced generation’ biofuels supply chains from feedstocks that do not compete with food supply chains.”

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