New surfactant alternatives offered at soap meet

15 April 2008 22:02  [Source: ICIS news]

ORLANDO, Florida (ICIS news)--Increasing reformulation towards environment-friendly soaps and detergents led several companies at a conference on Tuesday to showcase new surfactants.

Sasol said that its new catalyst technology NOVEL further enhances the properties of some of its alcohol ethoxylates (AEs), which the company has offered for years as an alternative to alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEOs).

“Our NOVEL-based AEs are readily biodegradable and have several similar or even better properties compared to nonylphenol ethoxylates [NPEs]…”, said Rebekah Cohen, research engineer at Sasol North America. She spoke at the SODEOPEC (Soaps, Detergents, Oleochemical and Personal Care) conference in Orlando.

Total NPE consumption in North America was estimated at 166m tons in 2006, mostly from the household, industrial and institutional cleaning (HI&I) industry, Cohen added.

Engineering and technology firm Chemithon emphasised the growing importance of biodiesel-based surfactants such as methyl ester sulfonates (MES).

Not only is the surfactant derived from renewable resources, MES also has lower feedstock cost, attractive biological properties and comparable or even better surfactant properties, said Chemithon’s Jorge Aparicio.

Two MES commercial plants are already on stream in China, said Aparicio. In the US, Huish Detergents has been producing MES in Houston, Texas, while Cressida, a business of Unilever, is producing MES in Honduras.

“MES is still in the early stages but with sharply rising prices of petrochemical materials combined with the rapid increase of biodiesel plants, the interest in MES has significantly increased worldwide,” said Aparicio.

Huntsman also presented its new biodiesel-based surfactants methyl ester ethoxylates (MEE) and vegetable oil-based ethoxylates (VOE).

“Biodiesel sells for about half a price of the detergent range alcohols and so there is a substantial cost savings here,” said George Smith, technology manager HI&I at Huntsman Performance Products.

Smith said MEEs are more economical than the detergent surfactant linear alcohol ethoxylates (LAEs). The surfactants are readily biodegradable; have excellent eco-toxicity profile; and offer similar performance to AEs for shorter chain species, he added.

Like MEEs, Huntsman also developed high purity VOEs through the use a new calcium-based heterogenous catalyst. Smith noted that long chain VOEs have higher dynamic surface tension and lower foam than AEs.

“VOEs with high levels of ethoxylates also show comparable detergency to AEs,” Smith said.

The three-day conference, which is hosted by the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS), ends on Wednesday.

By: Doris de Guzman
+1 713 525 2653

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