SoyGuard® Premium Water Repellant & Wood Sealer from BioPreserve

Here's a soybean oil based wood sealer formulated with a small amount of recycled polypropylene. What makes this formulation especially interesting is that over 90% of the product is derived from soybean oil, in the form of "methyl-soyate", a co-product of biodiesel manufacture (see below for details). The sealer formulator/distributor, SoyGuard®, reports that it's "Premium Water Repellant & Wood Sealer products...[were] developed to provide superior protection for exterior wood against water, swelling, warping, and weathering. Patented clean air formulas contain methyl soyate, a natural solvent derived from soybean oil that deeply penetrates the wood surface and encapsulates wood cells with a protective coating of recycled polystyrene". On-line distribution price is listed at about US$30/gallon. We assume that the "clean air formula" description refers to the product not containing sufficient amounts of photo-chemically reactive volatile organic carbon (VOC) to contribute to ground level ozone formation. This makes it interesting for finishing off all those lovely pre-manufactured homes that TreeHugger loves to post about.The trend of marketing to multiple new end use applications based on modified biodiesel process outputs is something we expect to see snowball. For example, the Erie Times-News recently reported on plans for a large new biodiesel facility in Erie Pennsylvania that will be one of the suppliers to BioPreserve, which in turn sells methyl-soyate to the formulator, SoyGuard®. What follows are some interesting excerpts from the article. Be sure to catch our spin at the end though.

* "Construction could start as early as spring on a proposed $35 million biofuel plant on the former International Paper Co. site".

* The "biofuel" plant "...would have the capacity to create 30 million gallons of methyl soyate annually..."

* "Once at full operation, the Erie biofuel plant will employ as many as 50 people...".

* "A $3 million wood-preservative manufacturing plant will be built in conjunction with the plant". BioPreserve, "which now employs three people, will expand to 10 when it moves to the IP site. It could grow to 100...".

* The BioPreserve product "...could be used on railroad ties now treated with creosote".

Environmental Attributes
We need to be circumspect to fully grasp the meaning and importance of this development. Being 91% soy-based is good, of course. So is using a small amount of recycled polypropylene. Diversifying the economics of a biodiesel production facility is good for both investors and biodiesel customers. Putting related facilties together in one industry park cuts down on the transportation impacts. However, being a "no-VOC" product is a simply a baseline requirement, because all architectural coatings that contain signficant VOC's are being phased by the USEPA-overseen Clean Air Act regulations. The small negative of using GM soy oil is easily outweighed by all the positives in our opinion. Replacing creosote in any wood treatment applciation is an obvious positive. And it's our favorite, of course, because a safely treated wood means fewer trees need be cut!

Market Dynamics
The marketing "pull" which creates the need for a low VOC wood treatment is the Clean Air Act ozone prevention rules with respect to architectural coatings. There remains some level of risk that radical proposals being made by the US Congress to "de-regulate" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, will undercut this important market driver. Let's hope not is all we can say.

The marketing "push" for such projects as the Erie PA industry park derives from the convergence of several forces: increased gasoline prices; a willingness to invest in energy independence; the intrinsically low sulfer content of biodiesel (which helps meet another EPA deadline for low-sulfer diesel fuel); an interest by investors and government in "home sourcing" green products to creat jobs; an interest at all levels of government in creating new domestic markets for US farmers; and, not the least, the pioneering efforts of TreeHuggers in proving the merits of biodiesel.