Methyl Soyate is the Key Ingredient in Eco-Friendly Products
Increasing concerns about the environmental impact of chemical cleaners and strippers has sparked an interest in biobased solvents. Methyl soyate, a methyl ester derived from soybean oil, is the key ingredient in an eco-friendly mix. This low-cost, readily biodegradable alternative could replace some of the 460 million pounds of traditional chlorinated and petroleum solvents (2004). Ongoing efforts by the United Soybean Board and the soybean checkoff seek to increase the methyl soyate utilization as an ingredient or carrier solvent.
Methyl soyate has a high solvency with a Kauri-butanol (KB) value of 58 and has low toxicity when compared to other common substances. In comparison to most commercial solvents, methyl soyate is safer to handle and store due to its high flashpoint of approximately 360 degrees Fahrenheit and high boiling point of well over 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not list methyl soyate as an ozone-depleting chemical (ODC), hazardous air pollutant or volatile organic compound. Methyl soyates slow evaporation time can be seen as a disadvantage, but in certain applications methyl soyate outperforms other traditional solvents when longer settle times are needed.
An increasing number of companies are beginning to offer multiple formulations of methyl soyate. For example, Soy Technologies offers SoyFast, SoyGreen 5000 and SoyGreen 6000, which utilize methyl soyate in the production of industrial cleaners and strippers. In testing, these products have demonstrated effectiveness equal to or exceeding their petro-chemical counterparts.
Beyond being an ingredient in cleaners and strippers to replace chlorinated or petroleum products, methyl soyate could find increased use as a carrier solvent. Solvents used as carriers and diluents in a number of alkyd coatings and adhesives include methyl ethyl ketone peroxide (MEK), toluene and xylene for coatings and methylene chloride (MeCL) and MEK for adhesives.
Methyl soyate is not limited to replacement of regulated industrial cleaning solvents. Due to its eco-friendly nature, methyl soyate can be used to clean up and recover spilled petroleum products from shorelines and streams. In fact, the EPA has listed a methyl soyate biosolvent on the National Contingency Plan product schedule for oil spills. It is also licensed by the state of California as a shoreline cleaner.
Formulated consumer products ranging from hand cleaners to auto-care to personal care products that utilize methyl soyate are already being produced and marketed. Additionally, expanding utilization of methyl-soyate-based co-solvents with ethyl lactate in products such as Vertec Biosolvents Vertec Gold solvent, and methyl-soyate-based co-solvents with d-limonene (citrus extract) in products such as CITRUSoy by Florida Chemical, Inc. also show promise. Vertec Gold is used in specialty coatings, inks and cleaners and offers increased versatility and high performance. CITRUSoy solvent, cleaner and degreaser are suitable for removing gum, wax, tar, asphalt, graffiti and more. Other new emerging applications for soy-based-solvent products and processes include bioremediation, paper pulp cleaning and highway paving materials that replace asphalt.
Methyl soyate is proving to be a great alternative to chemical-laden cleaners and solvents. Development and commercialization of biobased products are rapidly expanding because of increased government regulations and market demands for safe, healthy and environmentally-friendly alternatives to terpene or petrochemical based solvents and cleaner/degreasers containing butyls. Opportunities to increase the usage of methyl soyate continue to grow as companies like Soy Technologies, Vertec Biosolvents and Bi-O-Kleen, Inc. seek out more and varied uses for methyl soyate-based-solvents and co-solvents.