Plant oils offer a rich diversity of high value fatty acids as sustainable feedstocks for the speciality chemical industry. Maximising the potential of plant oils as renewable feedstocks will require engaging cutting edge research and development with end user needs.

Case study

MetAnOil was a Technology Strategy Board (previously DTI) funded project that did just that by pairing up The Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), University of York with Boots Company PLC. Using patented CNAP technology, the molecular composition of a range of plant oils, including a complete analysis of all the triacylglycerol molecular species, was determined to a level of complexity not previously achieved. This enabled oil composition to be mapped accurately with product performance, giving rise to a pipeline of new products, in association with EbeeHQ.

In a parallel track in the MetAnOil project, the knowledge gained from the analytical activity was used to inform the fast-track molecular breeding of hemp leading to the development of new lines with novel oil compositions.  Once fully trialed and registered, these new varieties of hemp will represent a significant increase in the variety of novel oils that can be produced in the UK for skin-care and other industrial applications.

This 3-year programme (2005-2008) demonstrated the feasibility of integrating feedstock development with end-user requirement through the use of cutting-edge analytical chemistry and post-genomic technologies that enable fast-track development of novel oil crops.

Project leader: Professor Ian Graham

Fatty acid trace

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