06 December 1999 00:00 [Source: ICB Americas]By Helena Harvilicz
Soybean producers are touting methyl soyate, a solvent based on soybean oil, as a greener alternative to petrochemical-based solvents. Soybeans, unlike petrochemicals, are a renewable resource. According to the United Soybean Board (USB), an industry trade group, soy-based products can provide high-quality performance in industrial and consumer applications at a cost competitive with similar petroleum products.
Methyl soyate costs as little as 65 cents per pounds, says The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based consultancy. This is more than methylene chloride, but less than restricted solvents and some aqueous and semi-aqueous cleaners.
"Industry can now have performance without the liability," says David Durham, chairman of USB's domestic marketing committee. "Methyl soyate is derived from one of American's largest crops: the soybean. That means a prevalent, cost-effective supply of soyate every year with little effect on the environment. Frankly, our natural formulation process is something competing cleaners just can't promise."
Soy solvents provide numerous environmental benefits, says USB. Methyl soyate is all-natural, biodegradable and virtually non-toxic. In addition, methyl soyate has high flash and boiling points and is less irritating to workers than some products traditionally used in industrial environments, such as acetone.
Unlike some other common solvents, it is not classified as a hazardous air pollutant or an ozone depleting chemical, and it emits low levels of volatile organic compounds. The product is listed as an alternative solvent under Environmental Production Agency's Significant New Alternative Policy.
"Methyl soyate can outperform traditional products in a variety of applications," says Marianne Iosso, vice-president of Iosso Products, a company that manufactures soy-based cleaning agents. "Our products clean more consistently than petroleum products without the strong smell or residue--especially important in many cleaning operations."
Industrial applications include oil-spill clean up, asphalt and concrete release, metal and parts cleaning, paint and graffiti removal, and printing and graphic arts cleaning. Methyl soyate can also be formulated into household cleaning products, such as degreasers, grill cleaners, driveway cleaners and hard-surface stain removers.
Soy solvents have been used in paint and coatings applications for years, according to The Freedonia Group. The consultancy sees further potential in the cleaning market.
"The greatest opportunities for methyl soyate as a solvent seems to be in cleaning applications as a replacement for hydrocarbons or other banned or restricted cleaners," the consultancy says. "The greatest inroads will be against methylene chloride (as a paint stripper and cleaner), perchloroethylene (as a cleaning solvent) and even among newer solvents such as d'limonene."
Freedonia also sees growth in consumer products, specifically hand cleaners and auto care products. In those applications, methyl soyate is an alternative to mineral spirits and other hydrocarbons.
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