Glycerol is a colorless polyol, with sweet taste and high solubility in water. Previously glycerol was obtained from epichlorohydrin, but presently most of the glycerol is obtained as by-product of bio-diesel production. It has emollient and demulcent properties, so finds numerous applications in pharmaceuticals and cosmetic preparations. It is used in preparation of ointment, coating of tablet, toothpaste, moisturizing creams and lotions and many more. It is also used in food industry for preservation of frozen foods, as an artificial sweetener and emulsifier. Glycerol is hygroscopic in nature so it is used in adhesives and glues to prevent from drying too fast.
The demand for glycerol is growing at a faster pace due to increase in consumption of personal care, pharmaceutical and food products. The consumption of these products is growing owing to increase in disposable incomes, product innovation and high market penetration especially in Asia Pacific. Growing working women population, younger generation going for cosmetic products, increasing usage of acne treatment product by teen population, and increasing awareness of sun protection creams and lotions is driving the demand of glycerol from personal care domain. Globally large investment is done in R&D of biotechnology, and increasing awareness of stem cell preservation is further boosting the glycerol market. Hence these factors when combined together are expected to drive the global glycerol market at a much faster pace.
According to Transparency Market Research, a leading U.S.-based market research firm, the global market for glycerol is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.3% from 2012 to 2018. The oversupply of glycerol due to biodiesel production had great impact on the prices of glycerol in the last five years.
Some of the potential applications which are on the verge of commercialization include 1,3-propanediol (PDO), epichlorohydrin (ECH) and propylene glycol (PG). These products are traditionally manufactured from conventional resources but glycerol helps in producing in eco-friendly manner. Some companies such as Dow Chemical and Solvay have already ventured into production of these products. Crude glycerol can be used as animal feed in non-ruminant animals such as hens, pigs, etc. as it acts as good energy source. Hence, glycerol has emerging potential applications and the problem of oversupply of glycerol can be solved in the near future.