Hydrothermal reforming of bio-diesel plant waste: Products distribution and characterization

Jude A. Onwudili, Paul T. Williams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A viscous waste derived from a bio-diesel production plant, in the form of crude glycerol, was reacted under subcritical and supercritical water conditions and the product composition determined in relation to process conditions. Preliminary analysis of the original sample showed that the main constituent organic compounds were methanol (20.8 wt.%), glycerol (42.3 wt.%) and fatty acid methyl esters (33.1 wt.%). Uncatalyzed reforming experiments were carried out in a 75 ml Hastelloy-C batch reactor at temperatures between 300 °C and 450 °C and pressures between 8.5 MPa and 31 MPa. Oil/wax constituted more than 62 wt.% of the reactions products. At 300 °C, the main product was a waxy material containing mainly glycerol and fatty acid methyl esters. As the temperature increased to supercritical water conditions, low viscosity oils were produced and all of the glycerol was reacted. The oils contained mainly saturated and unsaturated fatty acid esters as well as their decomposition products. The gaseous products were carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane and lower concentrations of carbon monoxide and C2-C4 hydrocarbons. No char formation was observed. However, during alkaline gasification with sodium hydroxide at 380 °C, the reaction products included a gaseous effluent containing up to 90% by volume of hydrogen, in addition to oil and significant amount of whitish solid residue (soap). Sodium hydroxide influenced the production of hydrogen via water-gas shift by the removal of carbon dioxide as sodium carbonate, but also decreased oil product possibly through saponification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-509
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


  • Bio-diesel
  • Glycerol, gasification
  • Supercritical water
  • Waste


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