Traditionally, biodiesel is produced by combining fats and oils from fossil fuel-derived methanol which results in waste product, crude glycerol in large scale.

The resulting glycerol, however, contains many impurities, making it costly to purify and re-use in other areas.

To overcome this challenge, the team developed a new way of turning the glycerol crude back to methanol which could increase biodiesel production by 10% as it can be used as a starting reactant to create more biodiesel.

The process involves adding of element hydrogen and a magnesium oxide (MgO) catalyst to glycerol crude through water in mild conditions.

The researchers published the results in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Cardiff Catalysis Institute director Professor Graham Hutchings said: "We’ve provided unprecedented chemistry that highlights the potential to manufacture biodiesel in a much more environmentally friendly, and potentially cheaper, way, by converting an undesired by-product into a valuable chemical that can be reused in the process."

Currently in early stages, the work involves future optimization of the catalyst design and boot the catalyst activity and selectivity.

Professor Matthew Rosseinsky, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Liverpool, who was not part of the study, said: "This paper shows how fundamental catalysis research can develop new mild processes to enhance the sustainability of biodiesel.

"As well as offering new opportunities for industry, it will stimulate the search for even better basic catalysts."

In addition to potentially reducing the biodiesel production process costs, the new process is estimated to have significant environmental benefits as it eliminates the fossil fuels need while improving the biodiesel yield.

Cardiff Catalysis Institute deputy director professor Stuart Taylor and co-author of the study said: "This research has the potential to transform the way in which waste is dealt with, and seriously improve the quality of life by reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuels and encourage efficient use of resources."

The EU has set a target to produce 10% of the transport fuel from renewable sources such as biofuels, by 2020.