Reducing the carbon footprint of the lubricants industry by the substitution of mineral oil with rapeseed oil

HGCA Project Report 533

Reducing the carbon footprint of the lubricants industry by the substitution of mineral oil with rapeseed oil


Rachel Wells1, Andrea Harper2, Peter Werner3, Matthew Clarke4, Richard Jennaway5, Peter Tollington6, Henri Benats6, Keith Norman7, Keith Salt8 and Ian Bancroft2

1John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7UH, UK
2Department of Biology, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK
3 KWS UK Ltd., 56 Church Street, Thriplow, Hertfordshire SG8 7RE, UK
4 Monsanto UK Ltd., PO Box 663, Cambridge, CB1 0LD, UK
5 Saaten-Union UK Ltd., Rosalie Field Station, Cowlinge, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 9HU, UK
6 Cargill BV, Evert van de Beekstraat 378, 1118CZ Schiphol, The Netherlands
7Velcourt Ltd., The Innovation Centre, Red House Farm, Wood Walton, Huntingdon PE28 5YL, UK
8Fuchs Lubricants UK plc, New Century Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs ST1 5HU, UK



There are not many options to substitute for fossil-oil based lubricants and hydraulic fluids in industrial uses, such as engine oil or in a hydraulic ram on a digger arm. Rapeseed oil could present a low cost, low carbon, biodegradable alternative, if only there was a lower content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). These PUFAs breakdown under high temperatures and pressures, rendering the oil less than suitable. Commercial cultivars of oilseed rape (Brassica napus) with very low PUFA content have not yet been developed.

This project shows that a cultivar of oilseed rape with lower than usual PUFA content has non-functional alleles at three of the four orthologous FATTY ACID DESATURASE 2; (FAD2) loci. FAD2 is the principal locus controlling the proportion of PUFAs in seeds of Arabidopsis thaliana. Many important plant species have polyploidy in their recent ancestry, complicating inferences about the genetic bases of trait variation. To explore the genetic basis further, we developed an ethyl methanesulphonate (EMS) mutagenised population, JBnaCabE, and used it to identify lines that also carried mutations in the remaining functional copy. This confirmed the hypothesised basis of variation, resulting in an allelic series of mutant lines showing a spectrum of PUFA contents of seed oil. Several lines had PUFA content of ~6% and oleic acid content of ~84%, achieving a long-standing industry objective: very high oleic, very low PUFA rapeseed without the use of GM technology. The population contains a high rate of mutations and represents an important resource for research in Brassica napus. 

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