By MATTHEW D. ERNST
FENTON, Mo. — The National Corn Growers Assoc. and QMaxx Products Group hope the U.S. military – and Corn Belt sportsmen – may soon be able to choose a new gun cleaning oil containing a significant amount of a corn-derived chemical.
The product is a biobased cleaning, lubricating and protecting (CLP) gun oil. “This is a new chemistry,” said Larry Hoffmann, a North Dakota corn producer who chairs the NCGA Corn Productivity and Quality Action Team.
The NCGA invested funds from its New Uses program to support military specifications testing of the CLP through the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center. The new CLP gun oil formulation has already undergone rigorous testing, and the NCGA investment was in part based on a promising outcome for ARDEC review and approval of the new CLP gun oil for sale to the military. Approval is expected within 18 months, if not sooner, according to Hoffmann.
Approval of QMaxx to market its CLP gun oil as approved for military uses would not result in large corn demand increases, said Hoffmann. However, the CLP could pave the way for greater impact. There are potential applications of the same corn-based chemical contained in the new formulation that “have significant market potential,” according to Hoffmann.
Any sign of new uses for corn is encouraging for producers awash in grain and looking for demand support. The August baseline update from the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, at the University of Missouri, projects a two million acre increase in U.S. corn plantings next spring.
Biobased overcoming barriers
The CLP gun oil project gained support from NCGA in part because of the performance indicated from the new CLP gun oil. “The corn-based product included in this formulation is superior to everything we tested that isn’t biobased,” said Craig Higgleston, QMaxx CFO and President. “So not only is it just as good, it’s better. And that’s really exciting,” said Higgleston.
Higgleston could not name the specific corn-derived chemical apparently responsible for the improvement, because of confidentiality concerns. But the superior performance of the CLP gun oil overcomes a common barrier for crop-based chemicals: product performance that does not always match synthetics. “As a generalization, I’d say, usually biobased products aren’t superior or aren’t as good as non-biobased products,” he said. That is a barrier for chemical manufacturers wanting to add bio-based ingredients but unwilling to give up product quality, according to Higgleston.
Another common barrier is the cost to derive bio-based chemicals from crops and other renewable sources. A game changer for the new QMaxx corn-derived CLP gun cleaning oil: a new chemical process that economically extracts the desired chemical from corn. “It’s been difficult to create that on an economic basis in the past,” said Higgleston.
That chemical process, developed by an undisclosed company working under an agreement with QMaxx, makes it easier and more economical to get the chemical QMaxx wants from corn. “We’re working with them to prove that it can be made economically on scale,” said Higgleston. “The price will be slightly higher, but not unacceptably higher for what would the market bear, and that’s part of what makes this so appealing,” he said.
More biobased products to come
Higgleston said his company has also presented two additional projects to the NCGA, for future consideration. “They like what we’re doing here,” he said. The NCGA could provide future project investments into other QMaxx initiatives, according to both QMaxx and NCGA representatives.
Corn and soybean checkoff funds have long been invested toward research and development of bio-based products, including bio-lubricants. According to a report from the Soy Checkoff, bio-lubricants have successfully displaced mineral oil products, especially those used in transformer fluids. Hydraulic fluids, including elevator fluid, are another major use for soy-derived bio-lubricants. Soy-derived fluid was successfully tested in the elevators at the Statue of Liberty, according to the United Soybean Board.
A federal imperative
Federal policy promoting and requiring use of biobased products has also spurred new product development. The federal BioPreferred program, administered by USDA, promotes the use of biobased products among federal agencies. A 2015 executive order, by President Barack Obama, instructed federal purchasers to meet certain requirements for purchases of biobased products.
A Farm World search of the USDA BioPreferred Catalog showed more than 30 products listed in the firearms lubricants category. This includes firearms greases, pastes, oils and other lubricants. The list showed at least one biobased CLP certified under the BioPreferred program, G96 Products Bio-CLP Gun Oil, which received certification from ARDEC in late 2016.
Should the QMaxx CLP biobased gun oil receive approval for meeting military specifications, as is expected, the company could then become an approved vendor to market the CLP gun oil for military use. Biobased CLP gun oil can potentially reduce soldiers’ exposure to some harmful chemicals, according to NCGA.
The new CLP gun oil, with the corn-derived ingredient, is also likely to appeal to users outside the military, according to Kendra Bonnett, QMaxx marketing. Gun cleaning products with the new biobased formulation are expected to be added to the company’s existing consumer products sometime in 2018, she said.