Glycerol combustion and emissions

Myles Bohon, Brian A. Metzger, William P. Linak, Charly J. King, William Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


With the growing capacity in biodiesel production and the resulting glut of the glycerol by-product, there is increasing interest in finding alternative uses for crude glycerol. One option may be to burn it locally for combined process heat and power, replacing fossil fuels and improving the economics of biodiesel production. However, due to its low energy density, high viscosity, and high auto-ignition temperature, glycerol is difficult to burn. Additionally, the composition of the glycerol by-product can change dramatically depending upon the biodiesel feedstock (e.g., vegetable oils or rendered animal fats), the catalyst used, and the degree of post-reaction cleanup (e.g., acidulation and demethylization). This paper reports the results of experiments to (1) develop a prototype high-swirl refractory burner designed for retrofit applications in commercial-scale fire-tube package boilers, and (2) provide an initial characterization of emissions generated during combustion of crude glycerol in a laboratory-scale moderate-swirl refractory-lined furnace. We report a range of emissions measurements, including nitrogen oxides, total hydrocarbons, and particle mass for two grades of crude glycerol (methylated and demethylated) and compare these to No. 2 fuel oil and propane. We also present preliminary data on the emissions of select carbonyls (by cartridge DNPH). Results indicate that a properly designed refractory burner can provide the thermal environment to effectively combust glycerol, but that high particulate emissions due to residual catalysts are likely to be an issue for crude glycerol combustion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2717-2724
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Combustion Institute
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 3 2011


  • Bio-fuels
  • Burner development
  • Emission characterization
  • Glycerol combustion
  • Waste fuels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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