Glycerol show promise as a marine fuel

One solution to combat the challenge of rising fuel costs, tightening emissions regulations and managing pollution risk may be the use of glycerol (glycerine) as a fuel for marine diesel engines.

The Technology Strategy Board GLEAMS (Glycerine Fuel for Engines and Marine Sustainability) project is currently investigating technology by which marine vessels will be able to surpass the very highest regulatory standards required for sulphur and nitrous oxide emissions, as well as slashing their carbon emissions and potentially reducing fuel costs.

There is a global over-supply of glycerol, a by-product of the expanding biofuel industry. The characteristics of glycerol make it attractive for marine applications:

  • Burns with higher efficiency than diesel
  • Very low NOx emissions
  • No sulphur emissions
  • Virtually no particulate matter
  • Non-toxic, water soluble and nearly impossible to ignite accidentally
  • Requires modification only to the external engine aspiration system
  • Readily retro-fitted
  • Engine technology proven through use in combined heat and power plant

Glycerol has a relatively low energy density compared to fossil fuels, however this is partially offset by increased efficiency. Although a greater volume of glycerol would have to be carried for a given range its low-hazard nature would allow additional storage in the hull space of many vessels.

Potential early adopters could include fishing vessels, dredgers, offshore support craft, ferries, survey vessels, port/pilot boats, marine police and other small commercial and leisure marine craft.

Potential end users and other interested parties can engage with the GLEAMS project by joining the ‘GLEAMS Interest Group’. Through an online forum members will be invited to discuss relevant topics and inform project outcomes. The project will explore collaborating with appropriate members in the future commercialisation of this technology. Membership of the GLEAMS Interest Group is free of charge and is available here.


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