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September 2019

The best alternative: AO Wax, Shell Neodene 26+

*Over the past decade, the global wax supply has changed dramatically. As a result of increased global demand for higher quality engine oils, many oil refineries have closed down their traditional lubricant base oil plants or converted them to newer technologies. This has not only had an impact on the supply of base oils but has also resulted in much less wax being produced than before.

As a result, many wax customers have actively sought alternative raw materials for the production of their candles, chipboard, coatings and other products. Hardened vegetable oils, such as palm or soya, or even animal fats have become popular alternatives for some applications. In addition, there has recently been increasing talk of a possible new (but old) alternative from China: wax produced from coal using the Fischer-Tropsch method.

For a number of applications, these alternatives are well suited to meet a technical need and can also be commercially interesting. However, these alternative raw materials also have a major disadvantage in common.

Admittedly, we do not work in the most environmentally friendly industry.

According to research done by the European Commission, when the effects of deforestation, forest fires and the loss of peat soil are taken into account, the production of vegetable oils emits up to three times more greenhouse gases than the production from crude oil. Not surprisingly, the European Parliament decided last year to ban palm oil for biofuels as from 2021. This certainly does not only apply to palm oil: the many forest fires that are ravaging the Brazilian Amazon today make it painfully clear that rainforests must also make way for the production of soya here.

When coal is used to produce oil products, such as gasoline and wax, the CO2 emission is no less than 2 times higher than if these products were produced from crude oil in the conventional way #). In addition, for every liter produced from coal, more than 10 liters of fresh water is needed. Many authorities wonder how it is possible that the Chinese government has granted licenses for the construction of these mega-plants, while at the same time working hard to achieve their climate goals.

This raises the question whether even better alternatives to the petroleum wax are not available.

At the beginning of this year, Shell completed a major expansion of its Alpha-Olefins plant in Geismar, Louisiana, USA. Alpha-Olefins are key ingredients in products that people use on a daily basis, such as detergents, lubricants and hand soaps. Since this summer, an Alpha-Olefin (AO) with a longer molecular structure is also available, making it very suitable as an alternative to traditional waxes in many applications. This synthetic wax is of a very constant quality with a perfect linear structure. It is white in color, has good water-repellent properties and is locally well available in the long term. Last but not least, this AO wax is competitively priced. And no, honestly it is not green, but greener than all other alternatives.

In pure form this product is offered by us under the name: Neodene 26+. Alpha Wax has also developed a number of blends based on this new AO Wax and these are offered under the name: Carisma (EU) and Pomona (US). All technical specifications can be found on our website: www.alphawax.com .

#) Data from research: Mantripragada/Rubin – Carnegie University. As suppliers of Fischer-Tropsch wax we hurry to mention that it is not so much the production method itself, but rather the basic raw material coal. If natural gas were to be used instead of coal, the emission of ‘well to wheel’ would be more or less comparable to that of crude oil production.*