Spillingbeans greener future

Spilling the beans for a greener future

10:25 AM, 15th September 2017
Spilling the beans for a greener future
Solvent is one such market where the potential of soy is being constantly explored to make this key ingredient of the chemical industry more environmentally friendly. © United Soybean Board

By Debarati Das

Every industry is constantly trying to reduce its damaging impact on the environment. And this has led companies to explore bio alternatives. As part of this, companies are discovering the plant Soy. It is a versatile plant with hundreds of uses. Apart from being a staple food item in many parts of the world, it is also being used to develop biodegradable biofuel, plastics, cosmetics, paints & coatings etc. making it a better alternative for petrochemical derived products. Solvent is one such market where the potential of soy is being constantly explored to make this key ingredient of the chemical industry more environmentally friendly.

Solvent, is no doubt, one of the most important ingredients of the chemical industry which finds innumerable uses in various industries. According to Markets and Markets report, the global market size of solvents which was worth $19.99 billion in 2015 is growing at a CAGR of 7.9 percent to reach $28.25 billion by 2021.

“The global solvents market is driven by the demand from major application areas, such as paints & coatings, pharmaceuticals, printing inks, adhesives and cleaning products. The market is undergoing significant changes owing to the growing environmental concerns, increasing the number of regulatory pressures and concerns over toxic emissions during the manufacturing of solvents,” said Hitesh Bhatia, lead analyst-speciality chemicals sector, Technavio.

But amidst various technological advances which are driving the growth of this industry, the market is also clouded by concerns of being environmentally friendly. And hence, green, bio-based, eco-friendly solutions is making a strong mark in this industry.

Conventional solvents not just lead to the high VOC emissions, but also have adverse effects on both human health and the environment. Therefore, the use of traditional solvents is facing restrictions from regulatory authorities as well as consumers. In various markets, the government is playing a staunch role towards incorporating stringent environmental regulations and this will continue to drive a shift toward less hazardous solvents that reduce emissions and lower toxicity. Going hand in hand is the rapidly changing perception and consumer preference which has effectively began to favour green products derived from renewable resources such as plant-based alcohols, soy methyl ester and terpenes. Further, the depleting state of natural resources has added humongous pressure on the oil and natural gas industry leading to constant oil prices fluctuation forcing various industries to shift its attention towards plant based alternatives. All this is increasing the demand for bio-based solvents in the market.

One such eco-friendly trend is the emerging opportunities of soy-based solvents. Soy has some of the greatest advantages of being not just cost competitive but also ascertains low-VOC, low-toxicity and is a readily biodegradable replacement for conventional chlorinated and hydrocarbon solvents.

Methyl soyate, a methyl ester derived from soybean oil, has been found to be an excellent “green” alternative industrial solvent for use in various industrial and institutional cleaners, paint strippers, adhesives, parts cleaners etc.

Methyl soyate is produced by transesterification of soybean oil and methanol with a sodium hydroxide catalyst. It is a safer alternative to chlorinated, petroleum and oxygenated solvents that offers very low flammability, a very high flash point, low VOC levels, non-Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) and is a non-ozone-depleting chemical (ODC).

“It is very important to find alternatives to petroleum-based products in industrial manufacturing and agricultural products. Renewable ingredients like soy-based esters reduce the impact of contamination in the air, soil and water and provide a more sustainable future,” said Skip Laubach, president and COO, Vertec Biosolvents. “An additional benefit to using soy derived solvents is that they are biodegradable. Soy allows us to develop products with no hazardous air pollutants. Often petroleum based product use will have environmental residuals that risk entering the groundwater or soil. Using soy-based products reduces the impact on air, soil and water which is good for all of us.”

There is a growing awareness about the use of methyl soyate as a green and bio-based solvent in different applications and it has been found that methyl soyate makes products more sustainable and environmentally-friendly, without sacrificing performance or increasing price.

Given these qualities, the preference for soy based solvents has witnessed a sharp rise. Markets and markets reported that the market size, in terms of value, of green & bio-solvents is estimated to be about $5.58 billion in 2015 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 7.94 percent to reach $8.17 billion by 2020. P&S Market Research points out that the global soy based chemicals market alone was valued at $11,688.7 million in 2015, and it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.5 percent during 2016 - 2022.

The surging automotive and construction industries has further accelerated the growth of this market. The transportation sector is growing considerably due to infrastructural development and rapid lifestyle across the globe. Rampant growth in both non-residential and residential constructions will further stimulate demand for construction-related materials, such as paint and coatings and adhesives and sealants and hence soy-solvents will further have a major role to play. 

“Adoption of less harmful green and bio-based solvents allows paints and coatings manufacturers to comply with all these regulations, thus giving the global solvents market an overall boost,” said Bhatia.

According to reports, North America held the largest share in the global soy-based chemicals market in 2015 with 34.5 percent share in terms of value. The developing countries in South America are also expected to make progress in the global soy-based chemical market. In the East, the Asian countries such as Korea, Singapore and China are investing heavily in the renewable chemical sector. Other promising markets include Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Thus, it is becoming imperative for industries to look into the potential that bio-resources have to offer. Solvay recently participated at the Plant Based Summit in France where it exhibited its line of biobased solvents among other products. “We seek to exploit the specific characteristics of bio-resources, from which we create new uses for our customers as cost effectively as possible while reducing the environmental footprint of their products,” added Francois Monnet, renewable chemistry director, Solvay.

Although soy and other bio-based resources have an edge over other conventional petroleum based solvents with its eco-friendly nature, low volatile organic compound (VOC) content emission etc making it the prime reason for manufacturers to shift towards green solvent, it's high production cost hampers the market growth. It would need a unanimous sense of responsibility among all manufacturers towards preserving the environment and an equal awareness among customers to support the cause for soy and other bio-resources to thrive in the market.  

© Chemical Today Magazine


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