In ICIS Magazine’s September 28, “Seeking Cheap, Green Surfactants” piece, author Doris De Guzman explores the growing interest in green materials in the surfactants industry, specifically for use in personal care products and detergents.
De Guzman explains the problem manufacturers and formulators have experienced since the “green” movement hit mainstream — keeping price low and performance high — all while keeping up with demands of being green.
One challenge has been combining high performance with cheaper, renewable-based surfactants and the ability to “increase the level of green ingredients in formulations without compromising performance.”
To overcome these challenges, manufacturers and formulators have increasingly switched from petroleum to oleochemical-based surfactants. “High petroleum prices and growing supply of Asian palm oil has driven the replacement of petrochemical-based alcohols with oleochemical-derived ones for several years. Alcohol is a major raw material for surfactant manufacture.”
“Oleo alcohols accounted for 60% of the global detergent alcohols market five years ago, says Neil Burns, managing partner for US-based consultancy Neil A. Burns. Today it is almost 70% and the trend continues with planned investments in oleo alcohol production capacity.” However as De Guzman points out, this trend is as much about supply availability and costs as it is about increasing sustainability.
At Elevance, our efforts in the area of surfactants, like in the other areas we are targeting for development, are focused on generating cost-effective performance improvements from renewable feedstocks.
Our biorefinery produces oleochemicals that will compete in today’s oleo alcohol markets as well as novel specialty chemicals that can be utilized as building blocks for the next generation of surfactants. Our collaboration with Wilmar will help us address the needs of the oleo alcohol markets and the recently announced collaboration with Stepan Company is targeting performance enhancements from our specialty chemicals to enable a new level of performance and economics. This combination of possibilities inspired Burns in a second article to deem Elevance’s joint venture with Wilmar “revolutionary.” We tend to agree.