BETO-funded team honored by the American Chemical Society

By U.S. Department of Energy | April 23, 2015

Two Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientists were part of a team honored at the 249th American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition on March 25. The team, which consisted of John Frye and Alan Zacher of PNNL and Todd Werpy of Archer Daniels Midland Co., received the ACS Award for Affordable Green Chemistry for creating a safe, commercial process for producing propylene glycol from renewable sources.

Their work successfully applies chemical catalytic process technology developed at PNNL to economically produce propylene glycol with reduced carbon emissions compared to propylene glycol made from petroleum. Propylene glycol is an important commodity chemical used to make humecants, anti-freeze, and plastics. The ADM product meets United States Pharmacopeia and USDA Certified Biobased Product label standards, and is used to produce a number of additional biobased products.

The process for making propylene glycol from renewable sources was achieved through Bioenergy Technologies Office-funded catalysis capabilities and collaboration between PNNL’s expert scientists and industry contacts. ADM’s analysis shows a 61 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to petroleum–derived propylene glycol. In addition to the recognition from ACS, this process has also received accolades from other parts of the chemistry community. The team was a finalist for the 2013 Kirkpatrick Award for Chemical Engineering Achievement and won an Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer in 2011, as well as an R&D 100 Award for their role in taking the impactful process from the lab to the market.

BETO’s Conversion Technology Area, along with its other technology areas across the biomass supply chain, aims to find cost-effective pathways to sustainably produce biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower, and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.