Grail Eu Project: Glycerol Biorefinery Approach for the Production of High Quality Products of Industrial Value

The article entitled: “Grail Eu Project: Glycerol Biorefinery Approach for the Production of High Quality Products of Industrial Value” has been published and is available online on Bulletin UASVM Food Science and Technology 73(1) / 2016; ISSN-L 2344-2344; Print ISSN 2344-2344; Electronic ISSN 2344-5300, DOI: 10.15835/buasvmcn-fst:11904.

Authors: Monica Trif, Berta Álvarez Penedo, Alexandru Rusu
Type of publication: Article
Date: May 2016
Journal: Bulletin UASVM Food Science and Technology 73(1) / 2016; ISSN-L 2344-2344; Print ISSN 2344-2344; Electronic ISSN 2344-5300, DOI: 10.15835/buasvmcn-fst:11904.
Main partners: CENTIV, BIOZOON

Abstract: The main purpose of the GRAIL EU Project is to find out a viable process, and related technology, aimed at exploiting the “crude glycerol” (at the present by-product from biodiesel production, having no more economic interest ), as a novel valuable feedstock for bio-fuels / bio-chemicals, such as 1,3 propanediol, Fatty acid glycerol formal esters, PolyHydroxyAlkanoates (PHA), Hydrogen and Ethanol, Synthetic coatings, powder coating resins, Secondary Glycerol Amine, Biobutanol, EPA, Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12), ß-carotene, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The PDF can be downloaded from the following website:


GRAIL e-NEWSLETTER #3 – February 2016

Project Progress


The biological processes for the biofuel productions are proceeding with the optimization of the different procedures. Hydrogen, ethanol and butanol were produced through different ways of fermentation (batch, fed-batch and continuous), using different type of crude glycerol as substrates.
A meeting among WP2 partners will be held on the 3th to the   5th of February at Norwegian University of Science and Technology with the aim of transfer the gas stripping technology from SINTEF to ENEA and STUBA.  As a result, the gas-stripping, as a promising system for controlling the inhibitory effects of hydrogen, ethanol and butanol, will be adapted to the different strategies for the crude glycerol valorization.


A dedicated task-force (with complementary competences in biology, chemistry and engineering) has been created in order to identify the major bottlenecks associated with large scale production of low added value compounds from glycerol (biofuels or intermediates for the chemical industries). The simultaneously low concentration of the product and high dilution required for glycerol in water to enable biochemical conversion limit the overall efficiency of the system. The primary objective is to find alternative solutions to develop cost and energy efficient processes that minimize energy consumption and reduce water consumption.


The preliminary LCA and LCC results for converting glycerol into 1,3-propanediol (green chemical) and n-butanol (biofuel) based on the available mass and energy balances has been achieved. The results of the bio-based products are compared to their current reference products to show their dis-/advantageousness regarding their environmental impacts and costs. The future location of the glyceral conversion plant has also been investigated. According to the glycerol geographical availibility and the transport infrastructures, Rotterdam region was firsly chosen and will be confirmed after evaluation of other criteria (environmental cost of the electicity consumption, labor costs, etc.).


The partners of the GRAIL consortium are actually involved in organizing the GRAIL Open Day event, a public event which will be held in Brussels in March 9, 2016. The presentation is expected to offer an excellent occasion to become acquainted with and to discuss about the opportunities emerging form this European project funded by the European Commission, and will include different lectures which will present relevant details of the aims, strategies and technical issues related to the research and development being undertaken.

 GRAIL has also published one paper:

Combining Bio- and Chemo-Catalysis for the Conversion of Bio-Renewable Alcohols: Homogeneous Iridium Catalysed Hydrogen Transfer Initiated Dehydration of 1,3-Propanediol to Aldehydes.

Authors: Yue-Ming Wang, Fabio Lorenzini, Martin Rebros, Graham C. Saunders,
and Andrew C. Marr.

For more information, please contact:

Institut Univ de Ciencia i Tecnologia, S.A.

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Main contact: Roberto Horcajada
Email: [email protected]

Please download the e-newsletter#3 here: [GRAIL] #3 e-Newsletter – February 2016

GRAIL Open Day – Brussels (Belgium) – March 9th, 2016

The GRAIL project Open Day will be held the 9th of March in Brussels (Belgium) at ENEA’s facilities.

The GRAIL open day is a dissemination event about the project designed to create awareness about it and its impact to key stakeholders of the field. At this event, different experts from biodiesel industry, politicians, etc. have been invited and it will consists in different talks about GRAIL, its envisaged results and impact and a discussion panel with those experts. All of you, experts, students, are totally invited to join the event and also to meet all those key stakeholders. The registration is free of charge.

Agenda of the event.

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ENEA’s facilities,
Rue de Namur 72,
1000 Bruxelles, Belgium

Map: click here

GRAIL – Publishable Summary of the first 18 months

Project context and main objectives

GRAIL is a glycerol-based biorefinery project aimed at providing high quality chemical products from cheap and abundant crude glycerol through highly integrated conversion technologies.

  1. Why is glycerol an important bio-based chemical?

Crude glycerol is by far the most abundant bio-based chemical in the world economy. The reason is found in the current biodiesel manufacturing system where crude glycerol is generated as a major by-product. A total amount of 203 biodiesel plants are operational in Europe which account for a total capacity of 20.24 Mt/a for biodiesel and a concomitant 2.02 Mt/a capacity for crude glycerol. In addition to these plants there are 101 plants that are not in operation due to economic constraints, 11 under construction and 32 planned. It has been estimated that a crude glycerol potential of 828,000 t/a is realistic in the EU. Such a large production level exceeds the current consumption of glycerol in the market segment of highly valued chemicals.

  1. The GRAIL biorefinery approach is based on highly integrated conversion processes that transform cheap and abundant crude glycerol into value added energy products and performance chemicals

Biorefineries have been proposed as the most efficient chemical conversion system for biomass feedstocks. The possibility to transform cheap bio-based feedstocks, in the range of 30-300 €cent/kg, into a variety of chemical products in the range of thousands of €cent/kg is the defining feature of biorefineries. The GRAIL fundamental objective is Continue reading

BIOLATAM 2015 – Chile – November 2015

Roberto Horcajada -Inkemia IUCT Group, project coordinator of GRAIL- will have a presentation at the BIOLATAM 2015 event in Chile on Tuesday 17, November 2015 (09:00–10:30).

The theme of his presentation is about bioeconomy and industrial biotechnology: The economic model of the future and examples of this industrial reality in Latin America. “White biotechnology includes basically all sectors except agriculture and health. It provide solutions in many areas such as chemical, food technology, environment and energy, among others. The current roundtable gives an overview of the great opportunities that white biotechnology offers with particular focus on Latin America in development of biofuels, bioplastics, biodetergents and food additives.”

Hosted this year by Chile Biotech, ProChile and Asembio, the conference is already gathering strong European support and is expected to draw an even bigger audience of engaged life science professionals.

To register and get more information, please follow this link:


Combining Bio- and Chemo-Catalysis for the Conversion of Bio-Renewable Alcohols: Homogeneous Iridium Catalysed Hydrogen Transfer Initiated Dehydration of 1,3-Propanediol to Aldehydes

Authors: Yue-Ming Wang,a,b Fabio Lorenzini,a Martin Rebros,c Graham C. Saunders,d
and Andrew C. Marr.a,b

a School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Queen’s University of Belfast, UK.
b Queen’s University Ionic Liquids Laboratories (QUILL), UK.
c Institute of Biotechnology and Food Science, Faculty of Chemical and Food Technology,
Slovak University of Technology, Bratislava, Slovakia.
d School of Science, The University of Waikato, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand.

Type of publication: Article
Date: November 2015
Journal: Green Chemistry, 2015, DOI: 10.1039/C5GC02157J
Main partner: QUB and STUBA

Abstract: Combining whole cell biocatalysis and chemocatalysis in a single reaction sequence
avoids unnecessary separations, and the associated waste and energy consumption. Bacterial
fermentation has been employed to convert waste glycerol from biodiesel production into
1,3-propanediol. This 1,3-propanediol can be extracted selectively from the aqueous
fermentation broth using ionic liquids. 1,3-propanediol in ionic liquid solution was converted
to propionaldehyde by hydrogen transfer initiated dehydration (HTID) catalysed by a
Cp*IrCl2(NHC) (Cp* = pentamethylcyclopentadienyl; NHC = carbene ligand) complex. The
use of an ionic liquid solvent enabled the reaction to be performed under reduced pressure,
facilitating the isolation of the product, and improving the reaction selectivity. The Ir(III)
catalyst in ionic liquid was found to be highly recyclable.

The paper is available in the Royal Society of Chemistry website here.

TeRiFiQ EU Project Final Conference – Italy – October 2015

Partner Centiv has been disseminated GRAIL Project at TeRiFiQ EU Project Final Conference on 27th October 2015 at Milan EXPO, Italy, and visiting the “CIBUSèITALIA” Pavillon of FEDERALIMENTARE SERVIZI srl (Italian Food Industry Federation).

TeRiFiQ, EC project, aims to achieve significant binary reductions in sodium-fat and fat-sugar content of the most frequently consumed food products around Europe whilst at the same time ensuring the products’ nutritional and sensorial qualities, safety and affordability for both industry and consumers.

For more information:


14th International Symposium – Romania – September 2015
Partners Centiv (Dr. Monica Trif) and BZN (Dr. Alexandru Rusu and Berta Alvarez) have been disseminated GRAIL Project at 14th International Symposium “Prospects for the 3rd Millennium Agriculture” in Cluj-Napoca, Romania from 24 to 25 September 2015.

The aim of this symposium is, in the context of the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policies at European level, to facilitate a dynamic exchange of information, experience, innovative ideas and concepts in the field of agricultural and horticultural sciences, food science and technology, biotechnologies, veterinary medicine, as well as other interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary fields.

GRAIL is referenced page 66 of the Symposium-Program ( and page 473 in the Book of abstract.

For more information:

GRAIL e-NEWSLETTER #2 – July 2015

The GRAIL project is a 48-month Collaborative Project with funding by the European  commission under FP7 Programme for Knowledge Based Bio-Economy. The GRAIL project has been built with 15 partners from 9 different countries with the aim of finalising the solutions given previously to the valorization of glycerol and transform then in valuable products in a biorefinery approach.

Glycerol Biorefinery Approach for the Production of High Quality Products of Industrial Value

The global production and consumption of biodiesel is continually increasing, resulting in a stoichiometric increased generation of crude glycerol, due to its co-production in the transesterification process. As a consequence, a vast amount of raw glycerol is generated each year and its value on market is being reduced.
The point of becoming a “waste-stream” rather than a valuable “coproduct”. Glycerol prices fell, generating a bankruptcy of companies that produce glycerol chemically, reducing 10 times the price of glycerol in the market.

Concept of the project

GRAIL project is born aiming to produce a replicable methodology for using economic and scientific arguments to overcome the main scientific, technological and economical barriers to consider crude glycerol as a suitable feedstock for the production of economically value added products. To date, there is no real use for raw glycerol besides from calorific valorisation, which led to an accumulation and as storage or expend as waste cost for the biodiesel corporations. GRAIL, therefore, proposes a “green process” designed for the manufacture of various high value products and biofuels from glycerol side-streams. The GRAIL consortium is focused on the development of known and new types of applications using glycerol as the starting material and this project aims to develop a set of technologies for converting that waste glycerol from biodiesel into 1,3 propanediol, Fatty acid glycerol formal esters, PolyHydroxyAlkanoates (PHA), Hydrogen and Ethanol, Synthetic coatings, powder coating, resins, Secondary Glycerol Amines, Biobutanol, Trehalose, Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12), ß-carotene, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and other products.

Project Activities Overview


The GRAIL project aims to convert crude glycerol occurring from the biodiesel process to valuable products in the fields of biofuels, green chemicals and food supplements. Within the activities of WP 1 the availability of crude glycerol is investigated and the requirements of this feedstock for the conversion processes are defined. The development of a purification step for the crude glycerol is discussed in order to meet these requirements. Furthermore, first plant layouts are developed and initial mass and energy balances are prepared for the conversion processes.

In order to determine the amount of crude glycerol available in an acceptable distance, the total amount of biodiesel plants in Europe was determined. The detailed status of the 347 European plants is presented in Figure 1.

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Regarding the operational plants, Continue reading