The European oleochemical industry currently relies on imported coconut and palm kernel oils and fatty acids and on castor oil as sources for medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA, C10–C14) and medium-chain polymer building blocks. These are needed for the production of plastics, surfactants, detergents, lubricants, plasticisers and other products.
COSMOS aims at reducing this dependence by turning the currently underutilised domestic oil crops camelina and crambe into profitable, sustainable, multipurpose, non-transgenic European oil crops for the production of oleochemicals. Seed properties will be screened and optimised through genetic techniques aiming at high yield, low resource inputs, optimisation of the value generated from vegetative tissues and fatty acid profiles adapted to industrial needs. Large-scale field trials will be performed at different locations in Europe to assess the potential of the crops in terms of cultivation practices, seed yield, oil content, ease of harvesting, and resource inputs.
Extracted oils will be fractionated into various fatty acid types (monounsaturated versus polyunsaturated) by selective enzyme technologies and extraction processes. The monounsaturated long-chain fatty acids so obtained will be converted to medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) and high-value building blocks for bio-plastics and flavour and fragrance ingredients through chemical and enzymatic chain cleavage processes. The ω3-rich polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) fraction will be purified for use in food and feed ingredients. Vegetative tissues such as straw, leaves and press cake will be fed to insects producing high-value proteins, chitin and fats. Insect fats and proteins will be isolated and prepared for use in food and feed products. The overall economic, social and environmental sustainability as well as life cycle of the whole value chain will be assessed. The impact of the project for Europe will be assessed in terms of value chain potentials for value creation and number of jobs that can be created.