How is propane produced?
Current processes for propane production involves pumping out oil from the ground.
During the extraction of oil from the earth, a mixture of crude and wet gas is collected. The two are separated,
with the wet gas containing propane. The wet gas is then cooled and separated into natural gas and LPG. The LPG is
then purified and can be separated to yield propane fuel. While this process has remained dominant over the
last century, a decreasing supply of oil fields threatens the system. Biopropane production can fill this gap.
How is biopropane produced?
There are currently multiple processes for the production of biopropane under investigation.
Feedstocks: Waste glycerol from biodiesel production
Food processing waste
Sugarcane bagasse (leftover sugarcane waste after juice extraction)
Corn stovers (leaves and stalks of leftover corn waste)
Energy Crops like switchgrass and giant miscanthus
Compostible garbage like yard waste, food waste
Conversion Processes: Multiple chemical and thermochemical routes can be employed for
conversion. Economics are based on conversion. Routes are
Fisher Troph Conversion
Pyrolysis with Hydrogen
In the first process, MIT has developed a system which converts a fermentation product to
propane. The product is derived from the corn and sugarcane. A reaction is conducted with supercritical water
causing the formation of propane from the starting product. The process requires no catalysts, causing a drastic
decrease in the end-cost of the product. After the reaction, the mixture is cooled and the biopropane is separated
Biodiesel is an important biofuel in Brazil, Europe and elsewhere. It provides an important fuel utilizing an
vegetable and animal oils. However, during the process of biodiesel transestrification, large amounts of glycerin
are produced as waste. Researchers are designing a process to efficiently convert the glycerin, a 3-carbon molecule
to biopropane (also 3 carbon molecule), as the molecules are similar. This process has a potential to reduce
90% of green house gases.