The use of glycerol as a fuel for marine diesel engines is currently being investigated by a group of UK businesses as part of the GLEAMS project. Partners include Aquafuel Research Ltd, Lloyds Register EMEA, Marine South East Ltd and Redwing Environmental Ltd.

According to GLEAMS, there is a global over-supply of glycerol, a by-product of the expanding biofuel industry. The characteristics of glycerol make it attractive for marine applications as it burns with higher efficiency than diesel, offers very low NOx emissions and no sulphur emissions, and has virtually no particulate matter and is non-toxic, water soluble and nearly impossible to ignite accidentally.

Using glycerol as a fuel for marine diesels would require modification only to the external engine aspiration system and is readily retro-fitted. It is engine technology proven through use in combined heat and power plants, says GLEAMS.

“Although glycerol can be used in diesel engines of any size, until a comprehensive distribution network is established GLEAMS will concentrate upon markets where limited volumes of fuel are required and bunkering typically takes place at a single location,” says a statement.

Potential early adopters could include small commercial and leisure marine craft, offshore support craft, ferries, survey vessels, port/pilot boats, fishing vessels and more. Pollution hazards associated with vessels operating in environmentally sensitive areas could be substantially reduced by the benign characteristics of glycerol, says GLEAMS.

Potential end users and other interested parties are encouraged to join the GLEAMS Interest Group. Through an online forum, members will be invited to discuss relevant topics and inform project outcomes.

The project will explore collaborating with appropriate members in the future commercialisation of this technology. Members will be invited to workshops, the first of which is scheduled for February 27, 2014, and hosted by Lloyd’s Register in London.