Glycerin is a chemical with outstanding utility and demand across many areas of application. A unique combination of chemical and physical properties, ease of handling, and its ready compatibility with several other substances are key to glycerin’s excellent versatility. Glycerin is also known to be virtually harmless to the environment and to human health.
Physically, the substance exhibits a clear, almost colorless appearance, is soluble in water, odorless, viscous, and has a high boiling point. Chemically, the trihydric alcohol is capable of being used as an alcohol in chemical reactions and is yet stable under most conditions. Owing to the excellent blend of chemical and physical properties, glycerin is commonly used across a wide range of end uses.
Among over 1500 known end uses of glycerin, some of the major, or large volume applications are seen in industries such as pharmaceuticals, personal care, cosmetics and toiletries, food and beverages, alkyd resins, polyether polyols, and urethane foams. The global glycerin market has exhibited growth at a healthy pace in the past few years and is expected to gain momentum in the near future as well, primarily owing to the rapidly progressing industrialization in developed as well as developing regions.
Primary Production Methods: Rapidly Expanding Biodiesel Industry Creating Glut of Crude Glycerin
Most of the glycerol produced across the globe is principally obtained from three methods: as a by-product of soap-making process, as a by-product during the production of biodiesel, and synthetically from propene.
Of these, the biodiesel industry is a major producer of glycerin. On an average, during the production of every 10kg of biodiesel, 1kg glycerin is produced. As the biodiesel industry has seen rapid expansion in the past few years, a glut of crude glycerin is being created on a global front. The glycerin created as a by-product of biodiesel manufacturing process is expensive to refine for use in the cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, or the food industries. Thus biodiesel producers are seeking alternative methods for its disposal and utilization. Research activities are continuously exploring new uses for the surplus crude glycerin produced, or compounds that can be easily and economically produced from it.
In the years to come, the increased focus on crude glycerin produced from biodiesel is expected to have a significant impact on the overall dynamics of the global glycerin market as well as the several other industries that utilize glycerin in large volumes.
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Asia Pacific: Most Lucrative Regional Market
Asia Pacific is considered one of the most lucrative regional markets for glycerin. Rising per capita incomes, strengthening economies of developing countries, and changing lifestyles are all contributing to the persistently rising demand for personal care products which use glycerin as a key ingredient. Europe, which is globally the dominant regional market for glycerin, together with Asia Pacific accounts for a massive share of over 55% in the global glycerin market.