Steam reforming of biodiesel by-product to make renewable hydrogen

M Slinn, Kevin Kendall, C Mallon, J Andrews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

209 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this paper was to investigate the viability of steam reforming the combined glycerol and water by-product streams of a biodiesel plant. A platinum alumina catalyst was used to optimise the operating conditions for glycerol steam reforming and mass spectroscopy was chosen to measure reformer gas yield. The problem is that glycerol steam reforming is relatively untested even with pure glycerol and the by-product quality may be too poor. The strategy was therefore to optimise the process using pure glycerol and compare the performance with by-product glycerol. To test catalyst degradation caused by carbon deposition, a Solid Oxide fuel cell (SOFC) was used as a separate reformer and electrical performance was measured to indicate carbon deposition. This is the first time a SOFC has been run on glycerol. The results showed that thermodynamic theory can be used to predict reformer performance. At high temperatures high gas yield can be reached (almost 100%) and selectivities of 70% (dry basis) obtained. The optimum conditions for glycerol reforming were 860 degrees C temperature (maximum tested), 0.12 mols/min glycerol flow per kg of catalyst and 2.5 steam/carbon ratio. Reforming catalysts lasted for several days of continuous operation with minimal degradation, 0.4% of feed deposited. By-product glycerol performed slightly worse with a lower yield and more carbon deposition, 2% of feed. The results show that glycerol steam reforming is a viable alternative use for glycerol and potentially a better option than purification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5851-5858
Number of pages8
JournalBioresource Technology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2008


  • fuel cell
  • hydrogen
  • glycerol
  • biodiesel
  • reforming


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