Chemical Engineers Develop Ecological Gasoline Additives

Researchers from the chair of development of chemical processes at the University of Dortmund (North Rhine-Westphalia) are currently developing an alternative gasoline additive destined for a bright future: GTBE (Glycerine-ter-butyl-ether) . This additive is formed from glycerin and is more advantageous compared to other additives from an ecological point of view.

Since the ban on the use of lead additives in petrol, MTBE (Methyl-ter-butyl-ether) has been used in Germany. This guarantees a high Octane Research IOR (RON - Research Octan Number) in petrol and does not damage the engine. However, its use is not entirely harmless, and it is partly prohibited in the United States because of its high solubility in water (MTBE can easily infiltrate into groundwater). "MTBE is certainly not toxic" says Mr. Arno Behr from the University of Dortmund, "but it has a very unpleasant taste and odor which obviously makes it difficult to find it in drinking water" . As such, Mr. Behr and his collaborators have been working for a long time on an alternative additive: GTBE. It is a satisfactory substitute for MTBE, it also has a high Octane Research Index and also ensures a long life to the engine.

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In addition, the glycerin-based additive has 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 currently more expensive than methanol, but Mr. Behr predicts in the coming years a massive drop in its price due to a massive presence on the world market. Indeed, due to European directives advocating an increase in the production of diesel oil from rapeseed by 2010, the production of glycerine - product for recovering diesel oil from rapeseed - will then amount to 700.000 or 800.000 tonnes per year in Europe. "There is no application yet for this amount of glycerine," says Behr. Glycerin as an additive to a fuel would thus solve three problems at the same time: it is ecological, available in large quantities as a recovery of diesel from rapeseed, and therefore ultimately inexpensive.

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Mr. Behr's team has developed a technical process to produce GTBE in a closed circulatory system without residue. But the use of glycerine will not be done as quickly as one might wish, "the transition from MTBE to GTBE represents considerable investments and depends above all on the decisions of the big oil groups" finally explains Mr. Behr, "but the ecological impact is still 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, press release of the University of Dortmund,
15/02/2005
Editor: Nicolas Condette,
nicolas.condette@diplomatie.gouv.fr

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