Are more rubber extraction refineries in our future? In 2004, the History Channel broadcast a Modern Marvels Special on Natural Rubber. My favorite quote from that special is “Our four most important natural resources are air, water, petroleum, and rubber.” (I would have argued for soil to be part of the list.) Nonetheless, while most people guess the first two, and some also guess petroleum, almost no one imagines that rubber is fourth on the list.
I recently found out that many Ohioans think that black rubber, like what we see in tires, seals and gaskets and hoses, is synthetic and derived from petroleum. In fact, this is far from true — natural rubber looks black when it is reinforced with carbon black. Natural rubber is used to make about 50,000 different products. The rubber component of a passenger car tire may be 50% natural and 50% synthetic, but the higher the performance required the greater the proportion of natural rubber. Airplanes land on 100% natural rubber tires — if synthetic polymers were added these tires would not take the stress of landing and could explode. Truck tires are 95% to 100% natural rubber. All-natural rubber has been harvested by tapping tropical rubber trees and the United States has imported all we require. This is an enormous amount each year of about 1 million metric tons (2.2. billion lbs). However, we now face a significant supply problem. As Southeast Asia, China and Brazil expand and develop their economies, they need more and more rubber. The increasing demand is greater than all our imports so where shall we get the rubber we need?
To address this critical supply issue, OARDC scientists are developing an annual rubber crop for Ohio farmers as quickly as we can. This crop plant, a cousin of our common dandelion, is being developed by improving wild plants collected Kazakhstan by USDA in 2008. The species name is Taraxacum kok-saghyz, erroneously called the Russian dandelion when it was grown at sites all over the United States during World War II. Our new selections are named Buckeye Gold — gold for the flowers and gold for the money we hope our farmers and rubber manufacturers will make. The quality of the rubber is almost identical to the rubber tree rubber. It is a root crop, but the rosettes can be used for feed or biofuels. Since it can be grown as an annual, we think that it will become part of our normal crop rotations. We have developed the technologies we need to improve the crop, can establish the crop from seed instead of more expensive transplants, and have had some success with herbicides for chemical weed control. TO support crop development are currently partnered with the Universities of Akron, Nebraska and Oregon State, as well as with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and American Sustainable Rubber Co, a company focused on indoor 4 D hydroponic rubber production.
We hope that Ohio farmers should quite soon be able to grow this new crop on a large enough scale (several million acres) to make the United States self-sustainable for natural rubber production, and then expand to allow this country to become a rubber exporting country!
Many new rubber extraction refineries will be needed, creating many new jobs across the agribusiness continuum. The first of the rubber biorefineries, on a pilot scale, became operational in Wooster, Ohio, in December 2012, thanks to a Third Frontier grant from the Ohio Department of Development.
Large renewable energy and biochemical consulting firms like Lee Enterprises Consulting normally offer a wide range of services in biofuels, biochemicals, biotechnologies, biomaterials, synthetic biology commercialization, feedstocks, and hemp/cannabis. These companies should have business and financial services like due diligence, feedstock availability, grants and loans and bio market research. The company also offers technical and engineering related services like techno economic analysis, environmental evaluations, feasibility studies, risk analysis and expert witness engagements. They might also have strategic partnerships in place to assist clients with insurance, legal, accounting, plant fabrication, feedstock procurement, and rubber extraction.
With over 150 experts worldwide, Lee Enterprises Consulting has experts in rubber extraction and many specific clean and renewable areas, including anaerobic digestion, fermentation, biomass, conversion technologies for things like tires and railroad ties, organic synthesis, fuel additives, ethanol gas, biodiesel fuel including algae biofuels, solid state and industrial fermentation, green energy grants, ag biotech, agricultural waste, alcohol fuels, alternative proteins and animal-free products, sustainable foods, beverage fermentation, biocatalysis, biodiesel conversion, biogas production, biomass power, carbon intensity, co2 utilization, combined heat & power, Fischer-Tropsch technology, food waste, hydrothermal carbonization, industrial enzymes, landfill management, microbial fermentation, organic synthesis, plastic pyrolysis, plastic recycling, plastic waste, pyrolysis oil, reactor design, renewable identification number, the Renewable Fuel Standard (rfs2), solid recovered fuels, torrefaction and torrefied biomass, waste to energy, and waste-to-hydrogen. This is a multidisciplinary group of green energy consultants that is a virtual “one stop shop” for any client need and handles projects of all types and sizes.
Look at our experts and the services we provide. Most of our experts are also available to advise and serve as expert witnesses in bioeconomy litigation matters. For the larger projects, we specialize in putting together full service, interdisciplinary teams with one point of contact. See video about LEC here. Call us at 1+ (501) 833-8511 or email us for more information.