The pine chemical industry is a natural industry that has withstood the sands of time and rapidly gaining popularity with environmental advocates for being a renewable bio-product. History of pine trees can be traced back into the past where people tapped on pine trees to extract gum resins, turpentine, pitch and other pine products for use in caulking (sealing of seams and joints of structures) and building of historical wooden ships. Pine chemicals were more commonly known in the past as "Naval Stores" to reflect its importance in naval expedition and warfare. Nowadays, the pine chemical market has evolved with new technologies and processes. No longer associated with seafaring, the versatile pine chemicals are now being used for widespread applications in adhesives, paint,, soaps, detergents and fragrances industry.
Pine chemicals are mainly obtained from living pine trees, stumps and tall oil soap, a co-product of paper pulping. Gum, for example, is obtained via scoring living pine trees for oleoresins and further separated via distillation to obtain gum rosin and gum turpentine. On the other hand, wood rosin is extracted from stumps and pine logs. For tall oil, it is obtained via treatment of black liquor skimming (a by-product of Kraft pulping) with acid.
The image below summarizes the pine chemicals manufacturing process. Tall Oil production involves fractionating the mixture into its various components such as heads and fatty acids. On the other hand, gum distillation is for separating gum rosin and turpentine. These rosin and turpentine are then subsequently processed to produce their respective derivatives.
A study by MarketsandMarkets projected the pine chemical industry to reach $4.8 Billion by 2020. Among the pine-derived chemicals, Gum Rosin is projected to have a substantial increase in demand.
Some factors influencing the pine chemical market are listed below.
1. Patents: With manufacturers patenting their technologies and processes, the barrier of entry to the market is substantially high.
2. Co-products as biomass energy: In the US, there are certain government policies proposed incentives to promote the burning of the renewable co-products from papermaking process for energy. These incentives will tip the balance of the playing field for pine chemicals in favour of biomass energy. This will further decrease the supply of the Pine Chemicals that is already scarce. Moreover, demand for pine industry is relatively rigid, as pine trees are not harvested for its co-products.
3. Crude tall oil as biofuel: One of the primary feedstock for the pine industry is the use of Crude Tall Oil that can be upgraded in complex bio-refineries to produce pine chemicals. However, this is threatened by the subsidies and incentives from European Commission governments for the development of CTO - based biofuels, with expectations that it will reduce greenhouse gases emission and use of conventional fossil fuel in transport.
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By: Wen Hao