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Soybean oil finds home in all-weather tires

Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady in Soybean Field.jpg
Soybean oil not only improves tire flexibility but also provides enhanced grip on road surfaces.
A collaborative check partnership leads to sustainable soybean oil commitment from Goodyear.

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company will phase out petroleum-derived oils from its products by 2040, using instead sustainable soybean oil as part of a partnership with the United Soybean Board. 

"We are always looking for alternative uses for soybean oil," said Jim Carroll, Arkansas farmer and USB leader. "This has turned out to be a really good deal for us." 

As past chairman of USB, Carroll has spent many years working to find reputable companies to partner with to add value to soybeans for the producers. 

Twenty years ago, the board was looking at biodiesel as one of the first value added uses to come out of soybean oil research. 

Soon the research turned to alternative polymers that could be used with rubber products. It was discovered that soybean oil could not only improve tire flexibility across temperatures but also provide enhanced grip on road surfaces, making it an ideal choice for tires. 

"There's actually two levels of benefits that soybean oil brings," said Bob Woloszynek, chief engineer at Goodyear. "Because it's a vegetable oil it does have a different structure."  

Temperature difference

The first big difference is that the glass transition temperature of soybean oil is significantly lower than that of a petroleum product, according to Woloszynek. Glass transition is the temperature at which a material goes from a rubber-like state to a glassy state, therefore soybean oil is more flexible at freezing temperatures. 

They also found that it mixes easier with rubber than a petroleum product and a smaller amount can be used in the production of tires. 

Goodyear commercialized this innovation in its Assurance WeatherReady consumer tire line in 2017, the Eagle Enforcer All Weather line in 2018 and the Eagle Exhilarate in 2019. It announced the Goodyear Assurance ComfortDrive in 2020.  

Building upon that success, Goodyear recently announced a new sustainable soybean oil procurement policy that reflects its commitment to the responsible sourcing of raw materials. 

End users continue to increase demand for sustainably produced products. The nation’s 515,000 soybean farmers are unified in their effort to grow market opportunities by providing the raw materials to support partners such as Goodyear.  

"The more we looked into it, the more we saw it was a perfect match for us," said Carroll, with a nod to the sustainability issue and the goal of the USB to reduce inputs and increase efficiency in soybean production. 

U.S. farmers are leaders when it comes to using new leading-edge technologies and best management practices to increase economic and environmental sustainability. 

“We are pleased to partner with Goodyear for their award-winning innovation with U.S. soy in tires and are ready to meet their current and future needs for the sustainable procurement of soybeans,” said United Soybean Board farmer-leader Ed Lammers, who serves as the Oil Target Area coordinator.  

Safe, reliable source

Lammers also noted that U.S. soybean farmers offer a safe and reliable source of sustainably grown soybeans that provide versatility in the areas of food, feed and fuel, and also deliver high-performance products for industrial use partners, such as Goodyear.  

In 2020, Goodyear increased its use of soybean oil by 73% over 2018, making progress toward the long-term goal of full petroleum replacement. The new procurement policy features a variety of components, including provisions across the supply chain for responsible land use, growing, harvesting and processing. 

With the goal to be a leader in sustainability, the U.S. soybean industry is positioned to meet the demand from Goodyear. U.S. soybean producers employ sustainable farming practices such as crop rotation, reduced tillage and nutrient management to improve soil health, reduce inputs, boost crop productivity, conserve water and enrich the quality of soil.   

“Goodyear’s use of soybean oil is growing, and we want our actions to make a difference in the lives of soybean farmers and others in the supply chain,” said Maureen Thune, vice president and chief procurement officer of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. “Our new policy will help guide us as we work with processors, farmers and others to strengthen the sustainability of the global supply chain.” 

Goodyear’s new soybean oil procurement policy is effective immediately and applies to all soybean-based materials sourced by its operations worldwide. 

"We want these partnerships," said Carroll. "Because if they can develop something that helps them and helps the farmer, it's a win-win." 

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