New Way to Make Renewable Hydrogen and Propane From Glycerol

Aston University research has illuminated a promising path for producing renewable hydrogen and propane fuel gases using glycerol.

Image Credit: Alexander Limbach/

Glycerol, an organic compound primarily derived from fats and oils, finds common use in health and beauty products.

Leveraging the abundance and cost-effectiveness of crude glycerol obtained from biodiesel production facilities, the researchers have ventured into pioneering efforts to harness its potential for generating hydrogen gas and biopropane. This groundbreaking work holds the potential to have significant environmental benefits and reduce dependence on fuel imports.

The HYDROGAS project, backed by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions program, which is the European Union's leading initiative for doctoral education and postdoctoral training, has delved into the utilization of glycerol as a foundational resource for the production of hydrogen gas and biopropane.

Hydrogen is widely acknowledged as the most auspicious clean fuel for the future due to its carbon-free emissions when used, while biopropane has the potential to substitute the already environmentally friendly fossil-derived liquefied petroleum gases. These fuels also offer a practical solution for heating distant off-grid structures.

Previously, it was demonstrated that glycerol could be converted into propane through a reaction with hydrogen. However, this method incurred high costs due to the need for external hydrogen. The innovative approach of the HYDROGAS project was to employ a portion of the glycerol itself to generate the necessary hydrogen to transform glycerol into biopropane.

The research was headed by Dr Jude Onwudili from Aston University’s Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute.

Our approach was to use part of the glycerol itself, to produce the hydrogen gas required for biopropane production, avoiding the need for it to be added from expensive external sources.

Dr. Jude Onwudili, Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute, Aston University

The HYDROGAS project has achieved its initial goal of establishing a method to produce an ample supply of hydrogen to convert glycerol into biopropane.

However, the project's second objective, which is to attain substantial yields of biopropane, is currently under investigation and exploration.

We are also still working to obtain high biopropane yields from ‘crude glycerol’. Through HYDROGAS, we discovered that the second-stage reactions can work in different conditions to those that make the hydrogen, so will explore this alternative route.

Dr. Jude Onwudili, Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute, Aston University

Dr. Carine Tondo Alves, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow, has played a pivotal role in supporting this research endeavor.

With additional funding from Aston University, the project is now geared towards creating a specialized research program focused on reforming and converting glycerol and other feedstocks derived from biomass into environmentally sustainable gaseous and liquid fuels.


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