The oleochemical industry makes secondary resources out of vegetable fats and oils: e.g. Fatty acids, Fatty acids esters, Fatty alcohols and Glycerine. They are excellent substitutes for mineral base chemicals and represent a new generation of environmentally friendly basic materials.
By applying chemical know-how these oleochemicals feedstocks are converted into a wide range of chemical products for use in cosmetics, paints and inks, lubricants, biofuels, textile and leather, plastics, rubber, soaps and detergents, pharmaceuticals and many other industries.
Many potential outlets for non-food oilseed have been already identified. The potential of these products is very high in comparison with other bio-based products. Some of the more traditional like candles, paints and linoleum are already well developed, while some others are still being explored and have not yet achieved critical market penetration.
Many benefits are attached to the use of oilseeds in non-food / non-feed applications:
- Environment: High level of biodegradability, reduced greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. CO2 emissions); no emission of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Polycyclic Aromatic Carbons (PACs) or Ozone Depleting Chemicals (ODCs). Beneficial recycling of used vegetable oils.
- Human health: Non-toxicity of consumer products; oilseed-based products are not volatile and cannot be inhaled or cause eye irritation.
- Safety: Fire and explosion hazards are minimised because vegetable oils are much less inflammable than mineral oils and therefore easier to handle and to store.
- Sustainability: Reduced use of mineral-based products; use of fully renewable materials.
- Independence and security of supply: Reduced EU dependence on oil imports (mainly in the energy sector), reduction of our protein dependence (oil meals being by-products of oilseed processing).
- Rural development: Creation of local jobs; diversification of agricultural activities.
- Agricultural benefits: Increased outlets for agricultural production; alternative crops; re-balancing among crops within the arable sector; rotational crops.
- R&D: Stimulation of research; development of new industrial activities.
Few products have a wider range of applications than oleochemicals derived from vegetable oils and fats:
- Biofuels: Biofuels used for stationary energy production; Biodiesel and pure plant oil used for transport purposes.
- Cosmetics: skin and hair care, make-up, toiletries (shampoos, soaps, shower gels, lotions, shaving creams, bath oils, toothpaste, etc.).
- Inks: Printing inks, paper coatings, photographic printing.
- Lubricants and hydraulic fluids: General and speciality lubricants, base oils for non-toxic biodegradable lubricants.
- Metalworking and foundries: Cutting oils, coolants, buffing and polishing compounds.
- Mining: Froth flotation of ores, surface-active agents for oil-well drilling muds.
- Paints and coatings: Alkyd and other resins, drying oils, protective coatings, linoleum, varnishes.
- Paper recycling: Removal of printing ink.
- Pharmaceuticals: tablet manufacturing aids and drug delivery.
- Plastics: Stabilisers, plasticisers, mould release agents, lubricants, anti-statics, antifogging aids, polymerisation emulsifiers.
- Rubber production: Vulcanising agents, softeners, mould release agents.
- Soaps and detergents: Industrial and domestic (Cleaning agents, laundry softeners etc).
- Solvents (Anti-dust agents).
- Textile & leather auxiliaries: Softening, dressing, polishing and treating agents.
- Waxes: Ingredients in waxes and polishes