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Palm Oil Importance and Uses for Domestic to International Market

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Palm Oil

Palm oil is derived from the flesh of the fruit of the oil palm species E. Guineensis. In its virgin form, the oil is bright orange-red due to the high content of carotene.

Palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature; a characteristic brought about by its approx. 50 percent saturation level. Palm oil (and its products) has good resistance to oxidation and heat at prolonged elevated temperatures; hence, making palm oil an ideal ingredient in frying oil blends. Manufacturers and end-users around the world incorporate high percentages of palm oil in their frying oil blends for both performance and economic reasons. In fact, in many instances, palm oil has been used as 100 percent replacement for traditional hydrogenated seed oils such as soybean oil and canola. Products fried in palm oil include potato chips, french fries, doughnuts, ramen noodles and nuts.

Another positive attribute of palm oil as a frying oil is that it imparts longer shelf life to the fried products; generally attributed to comfortable level of unsaturation, absence of linolenic acid and presence of natural antioxidants in the oil. See palm olein below for more information.

Palm oil, because of its natural solid-liquid content, is suited to be used in high percentages in vegetable oil shortenings, biscuit fats and bakery fats. In margarine production, palm oil is highly suited as a component as it imparts the desirable beta prime crystalline tendency in the fat blend. Palm oil’s natural semi-solid consistency means need for no or little hydrogenation.

Palm oil and many of its products mention below also find uses as ice cream fats, in vanaspati, soups mixes – dry and canned, with little or no further modifications.

Palm Olein

Palm olein is the liquid fraction obtained by fractionation of palm oil after crystallization at controlled temperatures. The physical characteristics of palm olein differ from those of palm oil. It is fully liquid in warm climate and has a narrow range of glycerides.

In addition to finding uses as in the case of palm oil, palm olein is widely used as a cooking oil. It also blends perfectly with other popular vegetable oils that are traditionally used in many parts of the world ; prompting a nickname ‘blending partner’ for palm olein. For example, in Japan, refined palm olein is blended with rice bran and in Malaysia, it is blended with groundnut oil.

Like palm oil, palm olein is also widely used as a frying oil and much of its popularity is due to its good resistance to oxidation and formation of breakdown products at frying temperatures and longer shelf life of finished products. In fact, palm olein is considered as the gold standard in frying and is perhaps, on its own, the most widely used frying oil in the world!

Palm Stearin

Palm stearin is the more solid fraction obtained by fractionation of palm oil after crystallization at controlled temperatures. It is thus a co product of palm olein. It is always traded at a discount to palm oil and palm olein; making it an cost effective ingredient in several applications.

The physical characteristics of palm stearin differ significantly from those of palm oil and it is available in a wider range of melting points and iodine values.

Palm stearin is a very useful source of fully natural hard fat component for products such as shortening and pastry and bakery margarines.

In addition to palm olein and stearin, there are easily a dozen other fractions, obtained from palm oil including various grades of double fractionated palm olein (aka superolein) and palm mid fractions. Where pourability and clarity can be issues for palm olein, especially in temperate countries, superolein finds uses as frying oil and cooking oil, usually in blends with seed oils. Palm mid fraction is commonly used as a highly versatile natural ingredient in the manufacture of tub margarine and in CBE manufacture.

Palm Kernel Oil

Palm kernel oil is obtained from the kernel of the oil palm fruit. The oil composition is very different from that of the palm oil. Click.

Palm Kernel Olein

Palm kernel olein is the liquid component of palm kernel oil obtained from fractionation.

Palm Kernel Stearin

Palm kernel sterain is the more solid fraction of palm kernel oil obtained from fractionation.

Palm kernel oil, palm kernel olein and palm kernel stearin find uses in margarine, confectioneries, coffee whitener, filled milk, biscuit cream and coating fats; with little or no further processing. There is a growing trend to use palm kernel oil products as an ingredient in the production of non-hydrogenated trans fat free margarine.

Palm kernel stearin is widely used to substitute for the more expensive cocoa butter in many of its traditional applications. In some instances, particularly when hydrogenated, palm kernel stearin exhibits performance superior to that of cocoa butter. Apart from their excellent melting properties, hydrogenated palm kernel oil products generally have good resistance to fat bloom and show good resistance to oxidative stress.

Oil palm products have a wide range of applications. Biomass products such as plywood and fibre boards can be produced from the oil palm trunks. Wastes produced at the mill are used as animal feed and fertilizers. Palm oil and palm kernel oil are used as ingredients in food applications and as feedstock for non-food applications.

Food applications

Refined palm oil and palm olein are used as cooking and frying oil due to their good resisitance to oxidation at frying temperature. In food industries, refined palm oil, palm olein and palm stearin are the main ingredients in the production of food items namely shortenings and margerine. Palm stearin is a very useful source of fully natural hard fat component for the production of shortenings and margerine. Vanaspati (vegetable ghee) is made from refined palm oil. Palm olein also blends perfectly with other vegetable oils such as rice bran and groundnut oil.

Palm kernel oil, palm kernel olein and palm kernel stearin are used as ingredients in margerine and non-hydrogenated trans fat free margerine, confectioneries, coffee whitener, filled milk, biscuit cream and coating fats. Palm kernel stearin makes a suitable substitute for the more expensive cocoa butter.

A combination of palm oil and palm kernel oil replaces milk fats in the production of ice cream. A blend of palm oil, palm kernel oil and other fats replaces milk fat for the production of non-dairy creamers or whiteners.

Non-food applications

Applications of palm oil products in non-food sector are mainly in the oleochemical industry and biofuel production. Palm oil products, particularly palm kernel oil have become major feedstocks for the oleochemical industry. The basic oleochemical products are fatty acids, esters, alcohols, nitrogen compounds and glycerol. Oleochemical products are in turn used in the production of other products such as pharmeceutical, cosmetics, candles, soaps, detergents, lubricants and antifreeze. Palm oil can also be used directly in the production of soaps.

Fatty acids are used in the flavour and fragrance industries, the production of candles and soaps, the manufacture of cosmetic products and as processing aids for rubber products.

Fatty esters are used in the production of pure soap and as active ingredients for washing and cleaning products. Palm-based methyl esters are also suitable as a substitute for diesel fuel for vehicles and engines.

Fatty alcohols find their applications in the production of washing and cleaning products. Fatty nitrogen compounds are used in rust prevention products and in producing softeners. Glycerol are used as solvent for pharmaceutical products, humectants in cosmetics and tobacco, stabilisers, lubricants and antifreeze.

In biofuel applications, the use of palm oil in the production of biodiesel is through the oleochemical route. Palm-based methyl esters is used as substitude or additive to diesel fuel for vehicles and engines. A blend of CPO (5%) and diesel (95%) can be used directly to replace diesel as fuel for cars with suitably modified engines. Palm oil finds its uses in the oil and gas industry used as a non-toxic alternative to diesel as a base for drilling mud.

Another non-food application of palm oil is the production of phytonutrients, particularly vitamin E (tocotrienols) and pro-vitamin A (carotenoids).

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