Feedstock, R&D

The search for high oleic oils

There had been quite a few inquiries that came to the blog regarding the market for high oleic oils and I just wanted to post some recent news about this market.

One is from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization). The agency said it has received trial approval for its super high-oleic (SHO) safflower oil, and has moved ahead with field trials of its first generation crop this summer.

The safflower oil contains super high levels of monounsaturate oleic acid — consistently over 90%. CSIRO has a patented hairpin RNAi gene silencing technology that turn off unwanted linolenic acid, which boosted content of desirable oleic to 92-94% in first generation plants. Second generation and so forth are expected to have even higher oleic acid content.

Specs for the first generation safflower plant are oleic (C18:1) at 92-94%, linoleic (C18:2) at 3-4%, and saturates at 3-4% (with zero linolenic). The SHO safflower oil was developed in a joint program between CSIRO and the Australian Grains R&D Corporation.

CSIRO said the SHO safflower has been approved for field trials by the Australian Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR). The initial trials are conducted under strict management and containment provisions regulated by the OGTR. The field trials were designed to assess field performance of the super high-oleic trait. The trials will also provide data on a range of agronomic performance parameters of the transformed plants.

Initial production target is 50 ktpa of oil, although given the safflower crop’s suitability for large areas of warm temperate agriculture in northern Australia, much greater production levels could be supported if required, according to CSIRO. Negotiations are said to be in progress to appoint a managing licensee in Australia. Regulatory approval is expected for full commercial production beginning in 2016.

Super high-oleic oils are said to be highly desirable for industrial applications including bio-based lubricants, hydraulic fluids, and electrical transformer oils. High assay oleic acid is valued as a feedstock for manufacture of oleochemical derivatives including diacids such as azelaic acid, as well as oleyl alcohol, oleic esters, decene and 9-dme (sounds like some of Elevance’s products….)

In another high oleic oil development, Solazyme has also been developing tailored high oleic acid oil using its algae oil technology.  Solzyme has recently partnered with KODA Distribution Group for the distribution of Solazyme’s Renewable™ Tailored™ high oleic algal oil to the lubricants and metal working fluids industry in the US and Canada by Monson Companies, a Koda Distribution Group company.

Last year, Solazyme has also partnered with Goulston Technologies, a global producer of high-performance fiber lubricants, to commercialize a new class of textile lubricants using Solazyme’s high oleic algal oil.  Goulston said it plans to immediately introduce high-performance textile finishes based on Solazyme algal oils, and to expand the use of Solazyme’s high oleic algal oils into additional products and markets them starting this year. Solazyme said industry estimates put the fiber lubricant market at more than 1 billion pound per year.

Solazyme’s target asking selling price for its high oleic algal oils is around $1500-$3000/ton for end markets such as lubricants, functional fluids, oleochemicals, and food services. High oleic edible oils have been in demand within the US food industry because of a federal law that requires food containing trans fats to be labeled as such. This law encouraged food companies to reformulate their products to eradicate trans fats and avoid labeling. In turn, agbiotech companies such as DuPont and Monsanto have introduced high oleic soybean varieties in the US.

In the Tecnon OrbiChem’s Bio-Materials newsletter published in September, we reported that Vantage Oleochemicals, one of the biggest fatty acid producer in North America, has been expanding its tallow-based oleic acid capacity at its Chicago production site by 30m lb/year (14 ktpa). The company expected to start the new capacity this month.

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.


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