Chemical engineers develop ecological gasoline additives

Researchers from the Chair of the Development of Chemical Processes at the University of Dortmund (North Rhine-Westphalia) are currently developing an alternative gasoline additive that they believe has a bright future: GTBE (Glycerine-ter-butyl-ether) . This additive is formed from glycerin and is more advantageous over other additives from an ecological point of view.

Since the ban on the use of lead additives in gasoline, MTBE (Methyl-ter-butyl-ether) has been used in Germany. This guarantees a high Research Octan Number IOR (RON - Research Octan Number) in gasoline and does not damage the engine. However, its use is not entirely harmless, and it is partly prohibited in the United States due to its high solubility in water (MTBE can easily seep into groundwater). “MTBE is certainly not toxic,” says Arno Behr of the University of Dortmund, “but it has a very unpleasant taste and odor which means that you obviously don't want to find it in drinking water” . As such, Mr. Behr and his colleagues have long been working on an alternative additive: GTBE. It is a satisfactory substitute for MTBE, it also exhibits a high Research Octane Index and also ensures long engine life.

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In addition, the additive based on glycerin presents above all environmental advantages: GTBE is not soluble in water and is more ecological than traditional MTBE. It is also an interesting alternative for the fuel industry in terms of price: glycerin
is for the moment more expensive than methanol, but Mr. Behr forecasts in the years to come a massive fall in its price due to a massive presence on the world market. Indeed, due to European directives recommending an increase in the production of rapeseed diesel by 2010, the production of glycerin - recovery product of rapeseed diesel - will then amount to 700.000 or 800.000 tons per year in Europe. "There is no application yet for this amount of glycerin," explains Behr. Glycerin as an additive to a fuel would thus make it possible to solve three problems at the same time: it is ecological, available in large quantities as recovery from rapeseed diesels, and therefore ultimately inexpensive.

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Dr. Behr's team has developed a technical process that allows GTBE to be produced in a closed, residue-free circulatory system. But the use of glycerin will not happen as quickly as one might hope, "the switch from MTBE to GTBE represents considerable investment and depends above all on the decisions of the major petroleum groups" finally explains Mr. Behr, "but the ecological impact is all the same an important argument ".

contacts:
- Teacher. Dr. Arno Behr -tel: +49 231 755 2310, fax: +49 231 755 2311 -
email :
behr@bci.uni-dortmund.de
Sources: Depeche IDW, University of Dortmund Press Release,
15/02/2005
Editor: Nicolas Condette,
nicolas.condette@diplomatie.gouv.fr

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