PNNL makes strides with ADM producing propylene glycol

January 16, 2018 |

In Washington state, PNNL, working with the National Corn Growers Association, was exploring ways that sorbitol, a corn-derived sugar alcohol typically used as a sugar substitute, could be used to create propylene glycol (PG). Funded by DOE’s Bioenergy Technology Office, the-funded project succeeded. The team discovered a catalyst that efficiently made PG not only from sorbitol, but also from glycerol. Glycerol is another type of sugar alcohol, commonly made from soybeans, palm, or tallow. However, glycerol is also a byproduct of the production of biodiesel. With this new discovery, PNNL could theoretically take the glycerol produced from creating biodiesel and not only stop this from going to waste, but efficiently create PG.

PNNL reached out to ADM to explore scaling up the process of creating PG from glycerol for industrial purposes. PNNL brought the catalyst and its engineering expertise; ADM supplied industrial focus and production know-how for full-scale commercialization.

As a result of the collaborative research between PNNL and ADM, the company now has a full-scale production facility at its manufacturing plant in Decatur, Illinois. The facility employs 140 people and can produce 100,000 metric tons of PG from renewable sources per year. ADM uses or sells this biobased product for use in deicers, cosmetics, pet food and pharmaceuticals, among others.

This new source of PG allows ADM to produce an economically competitive PG from renewable sources that meets American Society for Testing and Materials standards for 100 percent biobased renewable carbon content. It also meets U.S. Department of Agriculture BioPreferred standards, a voluntary labeling initiative that certifies this PG as biobased.

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Category: Research

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