Led by Velcourt, a collaboration of researchers and plant breeders are working to establish the commercial feasibility of a new type of oilseed rape (OSR) that could provide a greener alternative to the mineral-based oils currently used industrially.
It is estimated that 50% of all lubricants sold world-wide end up in the environment, with few alternatives currently available to the mineral-based products that can be harmful pollutants. If proven successful, this new type of OSR will not only provide a high-quality renewable alternative, but will also offer the advantage of having low toxicity and being biodegradable.
“The global lubricant market is worth $44Bn and is expected to keep growing”, says Keith Norman, Technical Director at Velcourt. “However, only 4.5% of the market is formed by bio-based products. The type of OSR we are investigating is hugely exciting not only because it is food grade and less harmful to the environment, but also because it is thermally-stable which has been a barrier to previous biolubricants”.
In the UK, OSR is the third-largest crop by area and is used as a break crop in wheat production. Sold both as a foodstuff and for biodiesel, growers are vulnerable to changes in EU policy, which could significantly affect the crop’s market value. This new OSR crop has the potential to protect growers from future market fluctuations by opening up a new multi-billion pound market for rapeseed oil as a biolubricant.
Funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK (102296), and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) (BB/M028534/1), the project will run until 2018 and test the commercialisation potential of the OSR type using the combined expertise of:
Together the project partners will address the principle barriers to the use of renewable oils in the mainstream lubricant markets – thermo-stability – and initiate connections between companies in new supply chains.
“This work has the potential to bring about a significant change in the lubricants market. We will be producing novel oils for industry evaluation and would urge any interested companies to get in touch to explore how they might be able to assess this new product for their applications,” explains Helen Shiels, Business Development Manager at the BDC.