COSMOS Project Explores New Oil Sources for European Oleochemical Industry

SpecialChem - November 29th, 2017
The COSMOS Horizon 2020 EU research project aims at reducing the dependence of Europe’s oleochemical industry on imported tropical vegetable oils.

COSMOS Horizon 2020 EU Research Project

It now imports much coconut, palm, palm kernel and castor oil for the production of products like plastics, detergents and plasticizers. At a stakeholder workshop preceding the 10th EFIB, 9-11 October 2017, in Brussels, the intermediate research results of this project were discussed.

COSMOS focuses on medium chain fatty acids and polymer building blocks, currently produced by oleochemical industry from tropical crops for which no European alternatives can be found

EU Research Project

  • The project looks at developing two under-utilized oily crops: Camelina and Crambe
  • The 18 participating project partners come from 9 European countries and the project is coordinated by Wageningen University & Research
  • The project is typical for the state of affairs of the current bio-based economy, in which both fundamental and applied research are crucial for further industrial bio-based developments
  • In the Netherlands, this type of research projects is coordinated by the Dutch Carbohydrate Competence Center or, with a focus on bio-aromatics, by Biorizon, a Flemish-Dutch Interreg-collaboration 
  • During the EFIB-conference later on, Biorizon elaborated on their progress

Various Technologies Employed by COSMOS

Oleochemical industry uses mono-unsaturated fatty acids MUFAs in industrial applications like the production of plasticizers. To increase the MUFA-yield, the COSMOS project employs a wide spectrum of technologies, including oil seed breeding and genetics, oil extraction and fractionation and catalytic conversion of fatty acids.

Several conversion techniques for fatty acids are being researched, for instance to change polyunsaturated fatty acids into monounsaturated ones. The research also aims at converting monounsaturated long-chain fatty acids into medium-chain fatty acids through catalytic, enzymatic and microbial chain cleavage processes.

Useful Applications for Side Streams of Oleochemical Industry

Apart from fatty acids, the project looks for applications of other valuable molecules from Camelina and Crambe plant materials, like high-value building blocks for bio-plastics.

The project participants include 50% specialized SMEs and 50% universities and research institutes. The French specialty chemicals company Arkema represents industry. As can be expected, the project ensures ground-breaking research, making use of the latest developments in several knowledge areas.

Source: Nova Institute
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