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biodiesel FIGURE 8-11 Preparation

(fatty acid methyl ester) of biodiesel.

methods require specialized costly equipment that prohibits their commercialization. These methods also suffered from poor yields and low selectivity.

In the Suppes synthesis (Figure 8-12), propylene glycol is formed by reaction of glycerin with hydrogen in the presence of copper chromite catalyst. The advantage of this synthesis is that it takes place at relatively low temperatures and pressures, with high yields and high selectivity, making it commercially feasible. Since the present commercial synthesis of propylene glycol is from petroleum-based feedstocks, the Suppes synthesis offers a way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by producing propylene glycol from biomass (waste glycerin from biodiesel production). Propylene glycol has a relatively large market, over a billion kilograms per year; finding a commercially viable use for the glycerin by-product of biodiesel production will help lower the cost of biodiesel and in turn encourage its production and use.

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