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Glycerine is a water-soluble liquid mix of alcohol and sugar. It is a by-product of the oil and fats industry that offers added value to various industries. There are three ways to process it: transesterification, saponification, and fat splitting (hydrolysis). In 2020 these 3 forms of glycerine production reached around 4 million metric tons, with a global market of $1.68 billion.

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Glycerine production from by-products of biodiesel, soap, or fat-splitting

Glycerine production starts with the transformation of by-products from different industrial processes and feedstock. The main industries are biodiesel production, soap production, and fat splitting. To obtain crude or refined glycerine, you need storage tanks, evaporators centrifuges, hydrolizers, and distillers.

Crude glycerine can be obtained by transesterification of natural oils or biodiesel. Here, fatty acid methyl esters are separated from sweet water. The concentration of the latter results in crude glycerol. It can also be obtained by hydrolysis or fat splitting, separating fatty acids from sweet water concentration. Last but not least is the saponification method. In this process, alkali solutions separate oils and fats from glycerol and convert the triglycerides into soap. If you’re making refined glycerine, crude glycerine must undergo subsequent refining and distillation.

Glycerine has multiple applications across industries

The natural origins, water solubility, and non-toxicity make glycerol a versatile option across industries. It’s used as a moisture retention agent, humectant, and lubricant in personal care products and cosmetics. Due to its smoothening, moisturizing, and sweetening properties, pharmaceutical and health care, glycerine is used to manufacture skin creams, eye drops, syrups, toothpaste, suppositories, and other products.

Food and beverages producers use it as a humectant, solvent, sweetener, or preserver, to make a range of foodstuffs including candies, low-fat products, cheese, margarine, and pet food.

Moreover, other industries use glycerine to make products such as anti-freeze, lubricant additives, coatings, paints, foams, and solid rocket fuels. The chemical and physical properties of glycerine, give it flexibility in its applications and compatibility with many ingredients.

Processing steps involved in glycerine making

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