Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Chemical Engineering


M. Clayton Wheeler

Second Committee Member

William J. DeSisto

Third Committee Member

Thomas J. Schwartz


Awareness of the world’s finite resources and our responsibility to conserve them has led to greater emphasis on renewable energy production. New federal mandates call for annually increasing the quantity of renewable fuels being blended with traditional petrochemical transportation fuels. For 2017, the Renewable Fuel Standard imposed by the EPA calls for 19.3 billion gallons of renewable biofuels be blended into gasoline and diesel fuels, derived from petroleum. These mandates increase the demand for biodiesel production, however they do not lead to an increased demand for the coproducts of biodiesel production, which become disposable chemicals. Therefore, there is incentive to convert them to more valuable products. This research is focused on the catalytic conversion of glycerol, the major coproduct of biodiesel production, into propane diols which are more valuable. Using an inexpensive, commercially available nickel on silica alumina catalyst, in a continuous flow, packed bed reactor, three different concentration feedstocks, as well as, various conditions were investigated to determine selectivity and reaction kinetics. Selectivity to 1,2-Propanediol at all reaction conditions and feedstocks was 28-71%, while being produced at 7-19% yield. The activation energy for glycerol was determined to be 65.9 ± 4.3 kJ/mol, while for 1,2PD it was determined to be 53.7 ± 2.4 kJ/mol. At T=235°C the reaction rate for glycerol, using the 0.05M feedstock, is 6.81 μmol/g-min, 0.1M feedstock: 4.32 μmol/g-min and 0.2M feedstock: 17.21 μmol/g-min. For 1,2PD rates were determined to be 2.02, 2.72 and 4.31 μmol/g-min for 0.05, 0.1 and 0.2M feedstock, respectively.