The environmental benefits of using vegetable oils, especially palm-based products, are many. They are renewable resources with good environmental characteristics, biodegradable, low ecotoxicity and toxicity to humans, and emit no net CO2 to the atmosphere. When supplies are low, more crops can be planted to make up the shortfall, which would be a boon to agricultural economies. Petroleum, on the other hand, is a finite and depleting resource.
Besides the environmental benefits, there will, in the future, also be other advantages from the wider use of vegetable oils. One of them is the social benefit from rejuvenating rural communities through the establishment of local industries and by providing farmers with additional income, thereby securing their livelihood.
Much interest has been generated in the industrial use of renewable resources, including palm oil. It is for this reason that renewable feedstocks can become one of the major players in the chemical industry in the near future. This might then result in a new economic order, placing agriculture in the economic forefront as one of the largest wealth-generating sectors.
About 80% of all oil palm product is used for food applications, while the other 20% is used in non-food applications. Because of the higher market value of these non-food derived palm products, the non-food category is expected to grow in importance. The non-food uses of palm oil and palm kernel oil can be classified into two categories; using the oils directly or by processing them to oleochemicals (chemicals derived from oils or fats).
Products produced using the oils directly include; soaps, plastics, drilling mud and even palm based diesel substitute.
Products produced from the oleochemical route include; candles, lotions, body oils, shampoos, skin care products, rubber and cleaning products.
Oleochemicals are chemicals derived from oils and fats. They are analogous to petrochemicals which are chemicals derived from petroleum.
Oleochemicals or derivatives based on C12-C14 and C16-C18 chain lengths have a variety of uses. Tallow and coconut oil have been the traditional raw materials used for the production of C16-C18 and C12-C14 chain lengths respectively. While tallow is produced by the developed countries such as the United States and the world has to rely on the Asia Pacific region for the supply of the laurics oils which are the C12-C14 source. The Philipines has been the main supplier of lauric oils.
The hydrolysis or alcoholysis of oils and fats formed the basis of the oleochemicals industry. The five basic oleochemicals are fatty acids, fatty Methyl esters, fatty alcohol, fatty nitrogen compounds and glycerin.
- High temperature and high pressure splitting of Palm Oil or Palm kernel Oil to produce crude fatty acids and glycerin as a by product.
- Distillation of the crude fatty acids to produce distilled or fractionated fatty acids which is a high purity fatty acids.
Fatty Methyl Ester
- Transesterification of Palm oil or Palm Kernel Oil with Methanol to produce crude methyl ester and glycerin as a by product.
- Distillation of the methyl ester to produce distilled or fractionated fatty methyl ester.
- Hydrogenation of distilled or fractionated methyl ester at high temperature and pressure in the presence of catalyst to produce crude fatty alcohol.
- Distillation to produce distilled fatty alcohol.
Fatty Nitrogen Compounds
- The most common fatty nitrogen compounds are fatty amides, nitriles, amines and quartenary ammonium compounds
- The most important of these compound is quartenary ammonium compounds colloquially known as ĄĽquatsĄŚ which is used in softeners.
- Glycerin is a valuable co-product of the oleochemicals industry.
- It has many applications such as in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics industry.
Retrieved from : American Palm Oil