Tall oil is a treasure trove of bio-based products

Crude Tall Oil (CTO) is a versatile, valuable and renewable substance the fractions of which are upgraded into a wide range of products in Finland. One of the latest innovations is the use of CTO derivatives in animal feed where they act as natural anti-inflammatory agents. Other examples of products derived from this natural oil include an application used in asphalt recycling as well as sterols, which are known for their ability to lower blood cholesterol levels.

Crude tall oil (CTO) comes from coniferous wood as a co-product of the wood pulping process to produce paper. CTO-based products have a significantly lower carbon emission footprint compared to substitutes derived from fossil raw materials or from other crops.

A modern tall oil plant is a biorefinery producing a wide, constantly expanding spectrum of products. Refinement allows the valuable molecules in CTO to be utilised in different products such as functional food (sterols) and paints (binders). The two companies specialized in CTO fractionation in Finland, Arizona Chemical in Oulu and Forchem in Rauma, produce high value added throughout the entire processing chain. They both export most of their products. New innovations and applications with even higher value added are constantly being developed.

Benefits for tires, animal feed and the circular economy

Tall oil is a mixture of molecules which can be separated into different fractions through distillation. These fractions can be further upgraded for a wide range of uses. In addition to the examples given above, tall oil derivatives are used to improve grip in car tyres and as tackifiers in adhesives. They can also be found in road marking products, chewing gum, lipstick and more.

One of the largest animal feed manufactures in Finland, Suomen Rehu, has developed and launched the world’s first poultry feed containing natural anti-inflammatory agents derived from tall oil rosin. These agents provide a way of reducing the use of antibiotics in poultry farming, which, although not common in Finland, is quite widespread even in some European countries. Video of the Progres® feed is available in English at Suomen Rehu.

Another interesting CTO based innovation is a product which promotes the recycling of asphalt. It allows up to 75 percent of old asphalt to be reused as coatings for roads. Without compromising on quality of the roads this reduces the need for new bitumen and the need for asphalt waste disposal, resulting in lower costs and saving of natural resources.

Strong know-how and steady market growth

CTO distillation refineries are the pioneers and forerunners of bioeconomy. The first tall oil refineries appeared in Finland in the 1910’s. Throughout the years, a lot of academic expertise and practical experience, including patents, in the field has accumulated in Finland. Long traditions boost the continuous development of the industry. Forchem, for example, is currently building a new esterification plant in the town of Rauma. Once the plant is completed, Forchem’s tall oil rosin will be sent out to the world as products with an increased value added.

 

Maija Pohjakallio, Dr Tech, acts as an advisor at Chemical Industry Federation of Finland, focusing on issues related to bioeconomy and cleantech

Tel. +358 50 595 6891
Email: maija.pohjakallio@kemianteollisuus.fi

Photo: Forchem

Updated Aug 3, 2015