Biofuels Hog Tall Oil Supply

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A recent study forecasts an 8% supply deficit for crude tall oil for all applications by 2030 because of high demand for its use in transportation-related biofuels.

The study, “The crude tall oil value chain: Global availability and the influence of regional energy policies,” was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

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According to the study, global supply of crude tall oil rose 16% between 2009 and 2018, and demand kept pace and stayed in balance during that time. “However, this balance is expected to shift after the year 2020, where a tipping point could be reached, since the global CTO demand may exceed the global CTO supply for the first time,” the authors said.

For this year, the study projects an estimated supply deficit of 0.6% for crude tall oil. “This deficit will rise to 8% or 0.18 million tons by 2030 globally and is driven primarily by the increase in demand for CTO-based biofuels for transportation,” the authors state in the study’s abstract.

“The supply-demand imbalance for CTO might grow further unless alternative raw materials become available or corrective legislative measures are taken.” This is despite global availability of crude tall being projected to increase from 1.85 million tons per year in 2019 to 2.26 million t/y in 2030. Over that same period, demand for crude tall oil-based biofuels for transportation is projected to increase from 320,000 t/y in 2019 to 880,000 t/y in 2030.

The American Chemistry Council noted in a Dec. 8 news release that crude tall oil is an essential raw material used to make pine chemicals. “For almost 100 years, the pine chemistry industry has upgraded CTO by separating it into higher use derivatives that can be used to create high value-added bio-based products, such as paints, pharmaceuticals substances, lubricants, soaps, detergents and additives,” ACC explained. “Pine chemicals can improve product performance, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase reuse of materials.”

Some forms of distilled tall oils are used in production of metalworking fluids and oil field chemicals, as well as soaps, cleaners and alkyd resins. Tall oil fatty acids are used in the manufacture of metalworking fluids and corrosion inhibitors and in industrial uses such as lubricants for belt conveyors, escalators and tracks.

ACC pointed out that the study’s authors make the case that although crude tall oil can be used to address short-term carbon emissions mandates, regulators incentivizing the use of crude tall oil for biofuels over the long run doesn’t present a level playing field for all uses. “ACC’s Pine Chemistry Panel believes that in terms of U.S. and global availability, the supply and demand for CTO for its use in bio-chemicals, bioenergy, and biofuels – for transportation – should be left to free market forces,” said Jon Busch, director in ACC’s Chemical Products and Technology Division.

The analysis and results presented in the study stems from research conducted for the project “Global Crude Tall Oil Study: Availability, Trade Flows, Policy and Outlook.” The research was funded in part by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT with a sponsored research agreement with the American Chemistry Council.

The study may be viewed online at the ScienceDirect website.