“This represents a very substantial market opportunity for U.S. soybean growers,” says, Eric Niemann, a farmer from Nortonville, Kan., and chairman of the United Soybean Board’s new uses committee. “It’s a win-win situation for both consumers and soybean growers. Consumers are getting a very high quality product made with a renewable home-grown resource, which lessens our dependency on foreign oil, and uses the product of American soybean farmers.”

At a press conference at Universal Textile Technologies in Dalton, Ga., the United Soybean Board announced the new use for soy-based polyurethane, or polyol.

Through the soybean check-off program, U.S. soybean farmers funded research to assist in developing the polyol, which can now be used to manufacture carpet backing .The soybean polyol is currently also used in a variety of applications including spray-on home insulation and truck bed liners.

Marketed under the trade name, SoyOyl, it can be blended with petroleum products at no extra cost and has the potential for use in other carpet applications, such as cushioning and padding.

“About 70 percent of the carpet manufactured in the world is made in the three county area around Dalton, Ga. In fact, a total of about 1.6 billion square yards of carpet are produced in that area every year, so this is a very large opportunity for American soybean farmers to get their product in a commercial setting,” Niemann says.

Manufactured by Urethane Soy Systems Company (USSC) of Princeton, Ill., SoyOyl will first find a home in the artificial turf and commercial grade carpet markets. The soybean polyol will be blended with petroleum-based products to manufacture the backings of commercial carpets and artificial turf. “They are using about a 17 percent blend of the SoyOyl now, but they have begun testing a blend of 80 percent soybean polyol and 20 percent petroleum-based products, and so far have been very pleased with the results,” Niemann says. “Our goal is for an 80 percent blend of SoyOyl in the production of all commercial carpet backings.”

“About 23 percent of all carpet produced is commercial grade carpet. If we could capture all of that market it would mean using the oil from 47 million bushels of U.S. grown soybeans annually,” he says. “It takes approximately 1 pound of soybean oil to produce 1 square yard of commercial carpet backing, so a 9x12 square yard piece of carpet would use about 1 bushel of soybeans.”

Also new to the market, Dow Chemical Co. has introduced Biobalance polymers and announced their availability for use in the carpet industry. The new soybean based technology replaces a portion of the system required to make polyurethane carpet backing. Dow launched this innovative technology with Dalton, Ga.-based Universal Textile Technologies (UTT) at the June 19 press conference.

Biobalance polymers contain the soy-based polyol, SoyOyl. South Dakota Soybean Processors of Volga, S.D., supplies the soybean oil used to produce the soy-based polyol.

“Polyurethane backing systems have been the long-time choice for performance- and comfort-based carpet specifications,” said Tom Peeples, president of UTT. “Biobalance polymers utilize a renewable resource alternative, an important component toward reaching our environmental goals. We are pleased to be the source for polyurethane carpet backing incorporating Biobalance polymers.”

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture became the first government agency to install carpet with the soy-based backing in its offices. The federal government is the largest carpet purchaser in the United States.

“The technology is sound, the science is sound, and I believe this market will continue to grow as all of the supplier embrace this new product,” says Niemann. “The home carpet market is still using latex, and we hope to get into that market as time goes on, but so far our opportunity is limited to commercial grade carpet.”

“Soybean farmers across the country should be proud of their check-off investment in SoyOyl,” he says. “USB has identified the carpet market as an opportunity to efficiently move more soybeans, and by funding the research and development of soy polyols, USB has effectively invested in the future of soybean farmers.”

e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com