New research explores high-value applications for rapeseed oil

York, 3 December 2015. Led by Velcourt, a collaboration of researchers and plant breeders are working to establish the commercial feasibility of a new type of oilseed rape (OSR) that could provide a greener alternative to the mineral-based oils currently used industrially. 

It is estimated that 50% of all lubricants sold world-wide end up in the environment, with few alternatives currently available to the mineral-based products that can be harmful pollutants. If proven successful, this new type of OSR will not only provide a high-quality renewable alternative, but will also offer the advantage of having low toxicity and being biodegradable.

“The global lubricant market is worth $44Bn and is expected to keep growing”, says Keith Norman, Technical Director at Velcourt. “However, only 4.5% of the market is formed by bio-based products. The type of OSR we are investigating is hugely exciting not only because it is food grade and less harmful to the environment, but also because it is thermally-stable which has been a barrier to previous biolubricants”.

In the UK, OSR is the third-largest crop by area and is used as a break crop in wheat production. Sold both as a foodstuff and for biodiesel, growers are vulnerable to changes in EU policy, which could significantly affect the crop’s market value. This new OSR crop has the potential to protect growers from future market fluctuations by opening up a new multi-billion pound market for rapeseed oil as a biolubricant.

Funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK (102296), and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) (BB/M028534/1), the project will run until 2019 and test the commercialisation potential of the OSR type using the combined expertise of:

Together the project partners will address the principle barriers to the use of renewable oils in the mainstream lubricant markets – thermo-stability – and initiate connections between companies in new supply chains.

“This work has the potential to bring about a significant change in the lubricants market. We will be producing novel oils for industry evaluation and would urge any interested companies to get in touch to explore how they might be able to assess this new product for their applications,” explains Helen Shiels, Business Development Manager at the BDC.

For further information, please contact:

Helen Shiels
Business Development Manager, BDC
+44 (0)1904 328049

Notes for editors:

About Innovate UK
Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency.  It works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy.

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Their aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by Government and with an annual budget of around £509M in 2014-2015 (£459M on research and capital grants and £50.5M for training and fellowships), BBSRC support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes.

About Velcourt
Velcourt is the largest Farm Management Company in Europe with a total of 54, 000has under direct management, with an additional 19,000has of advisory clients.  Velcourt is growing 7,700 hectares of commercial OSR for 2016 harvest, with a budgeted production of approx. 28,000 tonnes.

About the University of York
Founded on principles of excellence, equality and opportunity for all, the University of York opened in 1963 with just 230 students. Since then it has become one of the world’s leading universities, carving out a reputation as an academic powerhouse where a clear focus on excellence has secured national and international recognition alongside longer established institutions.

About the Biorenewables Development Centre
The BDC is a not-for-profit company, based at the University of York that helps businesses develop ways to convert plants, microbes and biowastes into profitable biorenewable products. Using cutting-edge science and technology, they bridge the gap between academia and industry to assist companies both in the development and scale up of new greener processes and products.

About Limagrain
Limagrain is a fast growing international agricultural co-operative group, specialising in both agricultural and horticultural seeds, and in cereal products.  As the largest plant breeder and seeds company in Europe and the fourth largest in the world, it employs over 6,000 people (more than 1200 in research) and turns over more than £1.1 billion annually.

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