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  • Ron Kotrba

OMV to pilot glycerin-to-propanol process in Austria

Glycerin is a byproduct of biodiesel production and other oleochemical processes.

Austria-based oil and gas company OMV is making plans to invest 30 million euros to build a pilot plant at its Schwechat refinery outside of Vienna to produce biobased propanol from glycerin, a byproduct of biodiesel production, using a process developed inhouse. The company says the propanol can be added to gasoline to reduce its CO2 footprint. Other applications include its use as a sustainable feedstock for biochemicals production, as a replacement for petroleum-based propanol. Under Europe’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), glycerin is considered an advanced feedstock.

“After more than five years of research, we are now investing in a ‘Glycerin2Propanol’ pilot plant and thereby contribute to the further development of advanced biofuels,” said Thomas Gangl, OMV chief downstream operations officer. “The new plant will be part of the existing value chain in the Schwechat Refinery and is an additional building block in OMV’s sustainable business model.”

Of the 30 million euros, close to 7 million is set to come from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), while another source of funding, according to OMV, is the COVID-19 premium.

Late last year, OMV announced it would coprocess renewable diesel at the Schwechat refinery. More recently, Germany-based Chemieanlagenbau Chemnitz GmbH announced it has been contracted by OMV to construct the renewable diesel project at the Schwechat site.

The “Glycerin2Propanol” pilot plant will be built at the Schwechat refinery beside its ReOil pilot plant, where the company recycles post-consumer plastics into synthetic crude oil, so both units can use a single measuring station, exploiting synergies through a “shared-operator concept,” the company said.

The pilot plant will be capable of producing 330,000 gallons of biobased propanol from close to 400,000 gallons of glycerin per year. The company expects the process to yield 42 gallons an hour.

OMV’s long-term plan is to commercialize the technology to produce around 33 million gallons of propanol per year.

Construction is expected to start second quarter this year and OMV anticipates production of propanol from glycerin in 2023.

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