The European oleochemical industry currently relies on imported coconut and palm kernel oils and fatty acids and castor oil as sources for medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA, C10–C14) and medium-chain polymer building blocks in cosmetics, food and other industry products.
The plan now with this four and a half year project, which brings together 18 partners from a variety of backgrounds, is to look at underutilised domestic oil crops such as camelina and crambe and turn them into profitable, sustainable, multipurpose, non-GMO European oil crops for the production of oleochemicals.
Camelina is a flowering plant native to areas in the Mediteraanean, as well as Asia, whilst crambe is also a flowering plant in the cabbage family that can be found in certain parts of Europe and Turkey, as well as in Asia and Eastern Arfica.
In order carry out the project on these crops, seed properties will be screened and optimised through genetic techniques aiming at high yield, low resource inputs, optimisation of the value generated from vegetative tissues and fatty acid profiles adapted to industrial needs.
Large-scale field trials will then be performed at different locations in Europe to assess the potential of the crops in terms of cultivation practices, seed yield, oil content, ease of harvesting, and resource inputs.
The extracted oils will then be fractionated into various fatty acid types (monounsaturated versus polyunsaturated) by selective enzyme technologies and extraction processes.
The monounsaturated long-chain fatty acids so obtained will be converted to medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) and high-value building blocks for bio-plastics and flavour and fragrance ingredients.
The ω3-rich polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) fraction will be purified for use in food and feed ingredients.
The overall economic, social and environmental sustainability as well as life cycle of the whole value chain will be assessed. The impact of the project for Europe will be assessed in terms of value chain potentials for value creation and number of jobs that can be created.
The project comprises 18 partners, of which 50% are SMEs and large enterprises and the remaining 50% are Research.