How Is Glycerol Made?

Glycerol is fundamental to the soap-making process.
••• natural soaps 3 image by samantha grandy from

Glycerol is a versatile compound used to make soap, lotion, nitroglycerin, preservatives and lubricants. Understanding the structure of glycerol is key to understanding the many processes by which it can be made.


Glycerol, also known as glycerin or glycerine, is a three-carbon alcohol with three hydroxy (oxygen and hydrogen) groups attached. In nature glycerol exists as the backbone of fatty acid esters which contain three fatty acid molecules in place of the three hydroxy groups.

Natural Production

When fatty acid esters are combined with lye to make soap, glycerol is a by-product which can be separated from the soap. Other long-used processes for making glycerol include high-pressure splitting of fatty acid esters and transesterification. More recently, glycerol has been obtained as a by-product of biodiesel production.

Synthetic Production

Glycerol can also be made from propene, or propylene, a three-carbon petrochemical compound with double bonds. The three needed hydroxy groups are added to the three-carbon chain. Synthetic production increased relative to natural production during the second half of the twentieth century.

Related Articles

The Effects of Washing the Organic Layer With Sodium...
What Are the Processes by Which Macromolecules Are...
Is Methanol & Isopropyl Alcohol the Same Thing?
What Are the Three Common Categories of Lipids?
What Are the Atoms That Make Up Lipids?
What Are the Polymers of Lipids?
Facts About Lipids
What Is Urethane?
Chemical Properties of Benzoic Acid
Common Reducing Sugars
What Are the Chemicals in Cornstarch?
How to Convert an Alkane to an Alkene
What is a Dehydration Reaction?
How Is Synthetic Camphor Made?
Dimethicone Vs. Silicone
The Common Uses for Tartaric Acid
What Are the Monomers of Triglycerides?
Which Two Ingredients Are Needed for Fermentation to...
Urethane vs. Polyurethane
The Differences Between Monosaccharides & Polysaccharides