Goodyear discovers soybean oil can reduce use of petroleum in tyres

25 July 2012

Goodyear has announced a development that could help consumers and the environment by reducing the amount of petroleum-based oil used in tyres, while at the same time, extending tread life.

Goodyear researchers at the company's Innovation Centre here have found in their tests that using soybean oil in tyres can potentially increase tread life by 10 percent and reduce the tyremaker's use of petroleum-based oil by up to seven million gallons each year.

In addition, testing at Goodyear's tyre plant in Lawton, Oklahoma showed improved mixing capabilities in the manufacturing process. The company found that rubber compounds made with soybean oil blend more easily with the silica used in building tyres. This can improve plant efficiency and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

"Goodyear is committed to caring for the environment and communities, and use of soybean oil is proving to be another way to accomplish this goal," said Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear's chief technical officer. "Consumers benefit through improved tread life, Goodyear gains with increased efficiency and energy savings and we all win whenever there is a positive impact on the environment."

Prototype tyres built in Lawton will be tested at Goodyear's Proving Grounds in San Angelo, Texas in the coming months. If indicators remain positive, Goodyear expects consumers will be able to purchase tyres made with soybean oil as early as 2015.

The United Soybean Board (USB) is helping fund the Goodyear project with a grant of $500,000 over two years. Goodyear will display a tyre made with soybean oil on August 6-7 at The Ford Motor Company's research centre in Dearborn, Michigan, as part of an event sponsored by the USB.

"The United Soybean Board congratulates Goodyear for its commitment to sustainability," said Russ Carpenter, USB's New Uses Committee chair and a soybean farmer from Trumansburg, N.Y. "The ongoing discovery of novel applications for soybean oil validates our commitment to the environment, cultivating a renewable feedstock that reduces carbon emissions and provides a natural replacement for petrochemical alternatives. The USB and America's soybean farmers are excited to support Goodyear in this effort to provide consumers with cost-effective, eco-friendly products."

The use of soybean oil is just one of the initiatives Goodyear is currently undertaking to increase its use of renewable raw materials. Goodyear and DuPont Industrial Biosciences continue to work together to develop BioIsoprene, a revolutionary bio-based alternative for petroleum-derived isoprene. BioIsoprene can be used for the production of synthetic rubber—which in turn is an alternative for natural rubber—and other elastomers. The development of BioIsoprene will help further reduce the tyre and rubber industry's dependence on petroleum-derived products.

Another effort underway in Goodyear to save non-renewable fossil fuel is Goodyear's Air Maintenance Technology (AMT). AMT will help enable tyres to remain inflated at the optimum pressure – without the need for any external pumps or electronics. All components of the AMT system will be fully contained within the tyre. The potential benefits of such a system include improved fuel economy, reduced emissions, longer tyre life, enhanced safety and performance.

Goodyear Wrangler