Industrial uses for new specialty soybean variety from University of Guelph show promise

Guelph, 14 December 2017 – The oil from a new specialty soybean variety developed by the University of Guelph has potential for use in industrial applications – and Oilseed Innovation Partners (OIP) is helping to unlock that potential.

Formerly known as Soy 20/20, OIP has pulled together a collaboration of industry (OPC Polymers and The Material Solution) and academia (University of Guelph) partners to guide this innovative product through a critical phase on its road to commercialization.

Because the soybean is high in linoleic fatty acids, it lends itself particularly well to industrial material applications like paints, coatings, polyols and epoxies.

In particular, it has 12 per cent more double bonds, making it more reactive and therefore a better ingredient in the manufacture of the alkyd resins used in coatings and paints.

And its oil has a fatty acid profile that is approximately 33 per cent higher in linoleic acid than commodity soybean oil; all other fatty acid levels, including saturates, are lower. 

“For example, the market for the paints and coatings applications is approximately 112,000 tonnes of vegetable oils. Recent studies point to a possible 16 per cent market share for the oil and that will require an estimated 60,000 acres of identity-preserved soybeans,” says Rob Roe, OIP’s Director Bioproduct Commercialization.

OIP had a small quantity of the specialty oil pressed and made available for new product development purposes; the project is now in the performance testing phase.

With coordinating support from OIP, the new oil was used to make a long oil alkyd resin and alkyd paint, products that were then tested against those made from the standard industrial feedstocks of commodity soybean oil, linoleic sunflower oil and linseed oil. The trial approach was developed by The Material Solution and tests were conducted by OPC Polymers, a global leader in alkyd resins for paints and coatings.

“This first trial demonstrated the superior performance characteristics of the resin made from the new oil versus the resins made from the other oil feedstocks, which was critical to move the project to the next stage,” Roe says. “These results provide a solid foundation on which to build further industry interest and expand to a demonstration trial phase where coatings companies will test the new oil and resin and develop confidence in their performance.”

The soybean variety was first discovered two decades ago by renowned University of Guelph soybean breeder Dr. Gary Ablett while he was working to develop soybeans with oil profiles more suited to the food industry, but market demand at the time wasn’t strong enough to warrant pursuing it further.

Ablett developed more than 50 soybean varieties during his career before passing away in 2012, and shared his discovery with fellow Guelph soybean researcher Dr. Istvan Rajcan, who continued Ablett’s work with a team of graduate students.

OIP has a mandate to encourage and grow both industrial and food-based market opportunities for Canadian oilseeds, and this is a promising endeavor for the oilseed and bioscience industries.

“We’re seeing growth in the use of soybean oil in paints and coatings, and the potential of this new high linoleic oil for industrial applications is promising,” says OIP CEO Jeff Schmalz.

Oilseed Innovation Partners is funded by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

Story by Lilian Schaer