Challenge area: Zero-footprint surfactant platforms

Green Lizard Technology, together with partners Felda Global Ventures and Dixie Chemicals, are currently piloting a process for the production of 2,3-epoxy-1-propanol (EP) (also known as glycidol) on a scale of 50 kg/day. They have also completed a full conceptual process design and techno-economic analysis for a 10 kt/year plant. The total production cost for glycidol is expected to be a fraction of the current market price, which has hindered its uptake in a range of high volume applications, such as coatings, thermosets and surfactants.

In addition, the byproduct polyglycerols find application in polyurethanes and polyesters production, as polymer and food additives, as demulsifiers, and in drilling fluid formulations. Reaction of glycidol with a fatty alcohol gives a fully bioderived, highly biodegradable polyglyceryl ether nonionic surfactant, in an analogous process to the production of glycol ether surfactants from ethylene oxide (EO).

A range of these surfactants have been synthesized from C10 – C18 fatty alcohols with varying equivalents of glycidol. Glycidol surfactants produced in this way have properties comparable to the corresponding EO-derived surfactants and require less glycidol by weight to produce. Target applications for these surfactants include detergents, foaming agents, wetting agents and emulsifiers.

To make this idea a success, GLT needs a partner with strong technical expertise in the surfactants area as well as industry guidance on which surfactants and applications to target for commercializing this process.