Microbial utilization of crude glycerol for the production of value-added products

  • Rosemary Dobson
  • Vincent Gray
  • Karl RumboldEmail author


Energy fuels for transportation and electricity generation are mainly derived from finite and declining reserves of fossil hydrocarbons. Fossil hydrocarbons are also used to produce a wide range of organic carbon-based chemical products. The current global dependency on fossil hydrocarbons will not be environmentally or economically sustainable in the long term. Given the future pessimistic prospects regarding the complete dependency on fossil fuels, political and economic incentives to develop carbon neutral and sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels have been increasing throughout the world. For example, interest in biodiesel has undergone a revival in recent times. However, the disposal of crude glycerol contaminated with methanol, salts, and free fatty acids as a by-product of biodiesel production presents an environmental and economic challenge. Although pure glycerol can be utilized in the cosmetics, tobacco, pharmaceutical, and food industries (among others), the industrial purification of crude glycerol is not economically viable. However, crude glycerol could be used as an organic carbon substrate for the production of high-value chemicals such as 1,3-propanediol, organic acids, or polyols. Microorganisms have been employed to produce such high-value chemicals and the objective of this article is to provide an overview of studies on the utilization of crude glycerol by microorganisms for the production of economically valuable products. Glycerol as a by-product of biodiesel production could be used a feedstock for the manufacture of many products that are currently produced by the petroleum-based chemical industry.


Industrial biotechnology Bioconversion Crude glycerol Biodiesel Value-added products Metabolic engineering 


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Copyright information

© Society for Industrial Microbiology 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wits Industrial Biotechnology Consortium, School of Molecular and Cell Biology, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of the Witwatersrand, JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

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