This is a very interesting analysis and bought me back to my days as “editor of oils, fats and waxes” at Chemical Market Reporter =).
According to SpecialChem’s community insight on various plant-based industrial oils used for coatings application, soybean oil has the best chance of being used as a renewable raw material for commercial sustainable coatings, followed by linseed oil, castor oil, coconut oil and tung oil.
Based on 410 votes, soybean oil received 44% of the votes as the vegetable oil is said to have the highest amount of linoleic acid and lower amounts of linolenic acid and oleic acid — therefore providing unique paths to modify soybean oil for making low VOC alkyd coatings.
Looking at US consulting firm Omni Tech International‘s 2010 report on soy use for industrial applications (you can download this on the blog’s green files), coatings and inks are historically have been the largest industrial markets for soybean oil. Sherwin-Williams, in fact, is an EPA 2011 Presidential Green Chemistry awardee with its development of a water-based paints (sold under ProClassic Waterbased Acrylic Alkyd, ProMar 200 Waterbased Acrylic Alkyd, and ProIndustrial Waterborne Enamel) made from recycled soda plastic bottle (PET), acrylics and soybean oil.
Sherwin-Williams said it used 320,000 pounds of soybean oil and 250,000 pounds of recycled PET for making their products. The company noted that it has eliminated 1,000 barrels of oil use as well as over 800,000 pounds of VOCs in 2010.
Sherwin-Williams and another paint formulator Rust-Oleum have been working with soybean trade association United Soybean Board on developments of soy-based water-borne technologies.
Soy alkyd resins, meanwhile, are also still popular for some uses, according to Omni Tech, and they account for about 20% of the resin volume in alkyd resins category although solvent soy oil alkyds lost its market share to more environmentally-friendly water-based acrylic technology.
Omni Tech also reported the development of soybean oil use in powder coatings (soy oil can be substituted for a portion of the intermediates used in making resins for powder coatings), in radiation cured coatings, and in drying oils (where linseed oil remains the dominant plant-based feedstock).
|Photo from USDA-Agricultural Research Services|
Throughout the years of my coverage of industrial and vegetable oils, the one thing I noticed is that their market use and commercialization really still depends on their supply availability. Development of soy oil use in industrial applications remains dominant over all other vegetable oils because there are plenty of supply worldwide.
Coconut oil used to be the dominant feedstock for oleochemicals manufacture given its high lauric oil content but then exploding palm oil supply back in the 1990s and early 2000s grabbed coconut oil’s market share. Chemical manufacturers do not like pricing volatility of their feedstock and that’s the bottom line.
Linseed oil and tung oil remains a niche feedstock for specialty chemicals application as there are not many farmers out there who are interested in small volume products that they can sell. I have to get back to my archives of what countries are still planting these seeds. I remember most of tung oil global supply came from China.
The same can be said for the volatility of the castor oil market although some chemical companies dealing with castor oil (such as France-based Arkema) have their own direct contracted supply source, which limited the pricing volatility of their feedstock.
If you want to know more about the castor oil market, I suggest visiting UK-based Fuerst Day Lawson’s (FDL) website, where I used to get general market updates (and if I’m lucky some pricing) on castor oil. Their reports are subscription-based of course. Not many good information are free these days….