North American demand for polyols now stands at three billion pounds per year. The United Soybean Board reports that 800 million pounds of this demand could be satisfied by soybean polyol. Soy is already a key ingredient in lubricants, solvents, inks, paints, coatings and binding agents. Now, soy is feeding the industrial move towards bio-based thermoset plastics for use in packaging, as well as foam for auto and other seating applications.
Soy polyol is used as a substitute for propylene oxide and ethylene oxide in the production of polyol, a major feedstock used in producing foam. Cargill's BiOH polyol is a prime example, processed in Ontario by the Woodbridge Group to form cushioning foam for car seats. Methyl soyate is another feedstock that will compete with petroleum for use in inks, cleaners and adhesives. Opportunities also exist in Ontario for soy wax from oil used to coat corrugated packaging. Capturing just 10 per cent of the Canadian wax-coating market would create a market for 32,000 acres of soybeans (Soy 20/20, 2007).
The supply is plentiful. In Ontario, more than two million acres of farmland are dedicated to soybean each year. Ontario farmers know the demand for soybeans can only increase, as applications for soy-derived oils multiply. Strong research programs such as the University of Guelph's soybean breeding program is constantly introducing new genetic lines and processing techniques, giving Ontario growers a reputation for innovation. The Ontario BioAuto Council is helping forward-thinking companies to build on this innovation by bringing plant-based oils further into bioproduct markets.