The natural oil polyols market is driven by increasing polyurethane demand from automobile and infrastructure industries. For instance, the Ford Motor Company implemented polyurethane foam made by using soy oil in the seats of its 2008 Ford Mustang. Ford Motor Company has since placed soy foam seating in all its North American vehicle platforms. The different governments and international organizations are framing stringent environmental regulations to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases emission that is expected to fuel the growth of the global natural oil polyols market.
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a policy to promote environment-friendly products pertaining to health and ecosystem safety. In North America, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced emission standards for cars and light trucks. According to the target set by EPA, the permissible emission from a passenger car should not exceed 225 grams per miles (g/mi) in 2016. The planned permissible emission limits for passenger cars is 143 g/mi for 2025 in the region.
Natural oil polyols are also known as biopolyols, which are derived from vegetable oils. Some of the major vegetable oil sources, such as sunflower oil, soy oil, castor oil and palm oil, are used as natural oil polyols feedstock. Many vegetable-based oils have structures that lend themselves well as a base for these products, leading to the production of bio-based polyols. Naturally occurring variations in composition could be dealt with using a variety of process strategies.
In the U.S., several different processes have been developed for converting soybean oil into polyols for flexible polyurethane foams. Urethane Soy Systems Company produces a family of polyols made by auto oxidation, also known as blown soybean oil. Cargill Industrial BioProducts has developed polyols made by ring opening oligomerization of epoxidized soybean oil. Dow Chemical Company is developing soy-based polyols that are made in four main steps from soybean oil: methanolysis, hydroformylation, hydrogenation and polymerization. Bio-derived materials such as soy-based polyols could offer significant advantages over conventional polyols in regard to sustainability, reduction of petroleum dependence and potential lower cost. Additionally, they are often characterized by higher thermal stability and less sensitivity to hydrolysis.
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In 2015, North America was the largest natural oil polyols market, followed by Northern Europe and Asia-Pacific. The increasing demand for bio-based polyurethane coupled with the availability of major raw materials, such as soy, in the U.S. is expected to drive the North American natural oil polyols market.
Some of the major competitors in the global natural oil polyols market include The Dow Chemical Company, Cargill Inc, BASF SE, Huntsman Corporation, Bayer Material Science AG, Emery Oleochemicals, BioBased Technologies LLC, Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc. and IFS Chemicals Group.