Improving the decolorization of glycerol by adsorption using activated carbon derived from oil palm biomass


This study provides insight into the decolorization strategy for crude glycerol obtained from biodiesel production using waste cooking oil as raw material. A sequential procedure that includes physico-chemical treatment and adsorption using activated carbon from oil palm biomass was investigated. The results evidenced decolorization and enrichment of glycerol go hand in hand during the treatment, achieving >89% color removal and > 98% increase in glycerol content, turning the glycerol into a clear (colorless) solution. This is attributed to the complete removal of methanol, free fatty acids, and triglycerides, as well as 85% removal of water, and 93% removal of potassium. Properties of the resultant glycerol met the quality standard of BS 2621:1979. The economic aspects of the proposed methods are examined to fully construct a predesign budgetary estimation according to chemical engineering principles. The starting capital is proportionate to the number of physical assets to acquire where both entail a considerable cost at USD 13,200. Having the benefit of sizeable scale production, it reasonably reduces the operating cost per unit product. As productivity sets at 33 m3 per annum, the annual operating costs amount to USD 79,902 in glycerol decolorization. This is translatable to USD 5.38 per liter glycerol, which is ~69% lower compared to using commercial activated carbon.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Data availability

Data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article (any additional raw data may be provided upon reasonable request).


  1. Ahmad Farid MA, Hassan MA, Roslan AM, Samsudin MH, Mohamad ZJJ, Othman MR, Shirai Y (2020) Carbon monoxide reduction in the flue gas during biochar production from oil palm empty fruit bunch. J Clean Prod 258:120580.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Ahmad Farid MA, Hassan MA, Taufiq-Yap YH, Shirai Y, Hasan MY, Zakaria MR (2017a) Waterless purification using oil palm biomass-derived bioadsorbent improved the quality of biodiesel from waste cooking oil. J Clean Prod 165:.

  3. Ahmad Farid MA, Hassan MA, Taufiq-Yap YH, Ibrahim ML, Othman MR, Ali AAM, Shirai Y (2017b) Production of methyl esters from waste cooking oil using a heterogeneous biomass-based catalyst. Renew Energy 114:.

  4. Ardi MS, Aroua MK, Hashim NA (2015) Progress, prospect and challenges in glycerol purification process: a review. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 42:1164–1173.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Atadashi IM (2014) Purification of crude biodiesel using dry washing and membrane technologies. Alexandria Eng J 54:1265–1272

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bahrin EK, Baharuddin AS, Ibrahim MF et al (2012) Physicochemical property changes and enzymatic hydrolysis enhancement of oil palm empty fruit bunches treated with superheated steam. BioResources 7:1784–1801.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bedolla PO, Feldbauer G, Wolloch M, Eder SJ, Dörr N, Mohn P, Redinger J, Vernes A (2014) Effects of van der Waals interactions in the adsorption of isooctane and ethanol on Fe(100) surfaces. J Phys Chem C 118:17608–17615.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Chol CG, Dhabhai R, Dalai AK, Reaney M (2018) Purification of crude glycerol derived from biodiesel production process: experimental studies and techno-economic analyses. Fuel Process Technol 178:78–87.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Dhabhai R, Ahmadifeijani E, Dalai AK, Reaney M (2016) Purification of crude glycerol using a sequential physico-chemical treatment, membrane filtration, and activated charcoal adsorption. Sep Purif Technol 168:101–106.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Faccini CS, Aranda S (2011) Dry washing in biodiesel purification: a comparative study of adsorbents. J Brazillian Chem Soc 22:558–563.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. García JR, Sedran U, Zaini MAA, Zakaria ZA (2018) Preparation, characterization, and dye removal study of activated carbon prepared from palm kernel shell. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25:5076–5085.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Gomes MG, Santos DQ, De Morais LC, Pasquini D (2015) Purification of biodiesel by dry washing, employing starch and cellulose as natural adsorbents. Fuel 155:1–6.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Hor KY, Chee JMC, Chong MN, Jin B, Saint C, Poh PE, Aryal R (2016) Evaluation of physicochemical methods in enhancing the adsorption performance of natural zeolite as low-cost adsorbent of methylene blue dye from wastewater. J Clean Prod 118:197–209.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Hunsom M, Saila P, Chaiyakam P, Kositnan W (2013) Comparison and combination of solvent extraction and adsorption for crude glycerol enrichment. Int J Renew Energy Res 3:364–371

    Google Scholar 

  15. Iakovleva E, Maydannik P, Ivanova TV, Sillanpää M, Tang WZ, Mäkilä E, Salonen J, Gubal A, Ganeev AA, Kamwilaisak K, Wang S (2016) Modified and unmodified low-cost iron-containing solid wastes as adsorbents for efficient removal of As(III) and As(V) from mine water. J Clean Prod 133:1095–1104.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Idris J, Shirai Y, Andou Y, Mohd Ali AA, Othman MR, Ibrahim I, Hassan MA (2015) Self-sustained carbonization of oil palm biomass produced an acceptable heating value charcoal with low gaseous emission. J Clean Prod 89:257–261.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Isahak WNRW, Ismail M, Yarmo MA, Jahim JM, Salimon J (2010) Purification of crude glycerol from transesterification rbd palm oil over homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts for the biolubricant preparation. J Appl Sci 10:2590–2595.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Jafri N, Wong WY, Doshi V, Yoon LW, Cheah KH (2018) A review on production and characterization of biochars for application in direct carbon fuel cells. Process Saf Environ Prot 118:152–166.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Javani A, Hasheminejad M, Tahvildari K, Tabatabaei M (2012) High quality potassium phosphate production through step-by-step glycerol purification: a strategy to economize biodiesel production. Bioresour Technol 104:788–790.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Kongjao S, Damronglerd S, Hunsom M (2010) Purification of crude glycerol derived from waste used-oil methyl ester plant. Korean J Chem Eng 27:944–949.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Manosak R, Limpattayanate S, Hunsom M (2011) Sequential-refining of crude glycerol derived from waste used-oil methyl ester plant via a combined process of chemical and adsorption. Fuel Process Technol 92:92–99.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Mena-Cervantes VY, Hernández-Altamirano R, Tiscareño-Ferrer A (2020) Development of a green one-step neutralization process for valorization of crude glycerol obtained from biodiesel. Environ Sci Pollut Res 27:28500–28509.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Peters MS, Timmerhaus KO, West RE (2003) Plant design and economics for chemical engineers, 4th Editio. McGraw-Hill Education, Singapore

    Google Scholar 

  24. Rafatullah M, Sulaiman O, Hashim R, Ahmad A (2010) Adsorption of methylene blue on low-cost adsorbents: a review. J Hazard Mater 177:70–80.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Rodrigues A, Bordado JC, Dos Santos RG (2017) Upgrading the glycerol from biodiesel production as a source of energy carriers and chemicals - a technological review for three chemical pathways. Energies 10.

  26. Saifuddin N, Refal H, Kumaran P (2014) Rapid purification of glycerol by-product from biodiesel production through combined process of microwave assisted acidification and adsorption via chitosan immobilized with yeast. Res J Appl Sci Eng Technol 7:593–602.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Schaffner F, Pontalier PY, Sanchez V, Lutin F (2003) Bipolar electrodialysis for glycerin production from diester wastes. Filtr Sep 40:35–39.

  28. Su H, Wang X, Kim YG, Kim SB, Seo YG, Kim JS, Kim CJ (2014) Optimization of decoloring conditions of crude fatty acids recovered from crude glycerol by acid-activated clay using response surface method. Korean J Chem Eng 31:2070–2076.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Sukiran MA, Abnisa F, Wan Daud WMA, Abu Bakar N, Loh SK (2017) A review of torrefaction of oil palm solid wastes for biofuel production. Energy Convers Manag 149:101–120.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Sukiran MA, Loh SK, Abu Bakar N, Choo YM (2011) Production and characterization of bio-char from the pyrolysis of empty fruit bunches Mohamad Azri Sukiran , Loh Soh Kheang , Nasrin Abu Bakar and Choo Yuen May Engineering and Processing Division , Malaysian Palm Oil Board , No . 6 ,. Am J Appl Sci 8:984–988, Production and Characterization of Bio-Char from the Pyrolysis of Empty Fruit Bunches

  31. Tan IAW, Ahmad AL, Hameed BH (2009) Adsorption isotherms, kinetics, thermodynamics and desorption studies of 2,4,6-trichlorophenol on oil palm empty fruit bunch-based activated carbon. J Hazard Mater 164:473–482.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. USP-grade (2013) United State Pharmacopeia (USP) Glycerol Specification. In: SRS Biodiesel. Accessed 29 Nov 2020

  33. Valdes H, Sanchez-Polo M, Rivera-Utrilla J, Zaror C a (2002) Effect of ozone treatment on surface properties of activated carbon. Langmuir 18:2111–2116. Doi

  34. Yong KC, Yunus W, Ooi TL et al (2001) Refining of crude glycerine recovered from glycerol residue by simple vacuum distillation. J Oil Palm Res 13:2001

    Google Scholar 

  35. Živković S, Veljković M (2018) Environmental impacts the of production and use of biodiesel. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25:191–199.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This study is funded by the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme – Malaysia’s Research Star Award (FRGS-MRSA) (Grant No: 5540052) by the Ministry of Education Malaysia (MOE) and the marching grant of the Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) by Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (Vot No: 6300156).

Author information




Funding acquisition: M.A.H. Conception and design: M.A.H., A.M.R., H.A., and Y.S. Data analysis and interpretation: M.A.A.F., M.N.F.N., and M.R.O. Drafting and revising the article: M.A.A.F., M.A.H, and A.M.R. Supervision: M.A.H.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mohd Ali Hassan.

Ethics declarations

Ethical approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

This manuscript has not been submitted to, nor is under review at, another journal, or other publishing venue.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Responsible Editor: Angeles Blanco

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ahmad Farid, M.A., Hassan, M.A., Roslan, A.M. et al. Improving the decolorization of glycerol by adsorption using activated carbon derived from oil palm biomass. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2021).

Download citation


  • Glycerol
  • Decolorization
  • Activated carbon
  • Oil palm Biomass
  • Responsible Editor: Angeles Blanco