The production of biodiesel results in a concomitant production of crude glycerol (10% w/w). Clostridium pasteurianum can utilize glycerol as sole carbon source and converts it into 1,3-propanediol, ethanol, butanol, and CO2. Reduced growth and productivities on crude glycerol as compared to technical grade glycerol have previously been observed. In this study, we applied random mutagenesis mediated by ethane methyl sulfonate (EMS) to develop a mutant strain of C. pasteurianum tolerating high concentrations of crude glycerol. At an initial crude glycerol concentration of 25g/l the amount of dry cell mass produced by the mutant strain was six times higher than the amount produced by the wild type. Growth of the mutant strain was even detected at an initial crude glycerol concentration of 105g/l. A pH controlled reactor with in situ removal of butanol by gas-stripping was used to evaluate the performance of the mutant strain. Utilizing stored crude glycerol, the mutant strain showed significantly increased rates compared to the wild type. A maximum glycerol utilization rate of 7.59g/l/h was observed along with productivities of 1.80g/l/h and 1.21g/l/h of butanol and 1,3-PDO, respectively. These rates are higher than what previously has been published for C. pasteurianum growing on technical grade glycerol in fed batch reactors. In addition, high yields of the main products (butanol and 1,3-PDO) were detected and these two products were efficiently separated in two steams using gas-stripping.
Keywords: Glycerol, Crude glycerol, Biofuel, Anaerobic fermentation, Chemical mutagenesis