There is rapid growth in the world for palm oil production and processing since the last two decades.
The world’s vegetable market is occupied with 26% share of palm oil and 5% share of palm kernel oil and their products. So, the importance of palm oil growing day by day and consumption of palm oil in better way to minimize the losses to push it towards the edible and human consumption taking place.
Earlier either in Africa or Asia palm oil used to be consumed as red oil and many dishes were made with red oil without refining. Due to solid fat content of more than 20% giving less appeal to human consumption which made the palm oil refine and fractionate as unsaturated oil are good for health.
The palm oil produced from palm fruits and it is like other oils contain major portion of saturated triglycerides and non-glyceredic materials in small quantities. The triglyceride portion will decide the chemical characteristics of palm oil and palm oil contains 50% saturated and 50% unsaturated fatty acids. Minor components of palm oil like carotenoids, tocopherols, sterols, phosphatides, triterpenic alcohols and aliphatic alcohols. However their percentage not exceed more than 1% still play a significant role in the stability and refinability of oil.
The commercially extracted palm oil from fruit bunches contains mesocarp fibers, moisture and insolubles, free fatty acids, phospholipids, trace metals, oxidation products, and odoriferous substances. As a result, palm oil is normally refined to a bland, stable product before it is used for direct consumption or for formulation of edible product. The refining of palm oil could be processed either physical or chemical refining route. Due to cost effectiveness and high FFA of palm oil its generally used physical refining route. The physical refining of palm consisting of the following steps and further the RBD palm oil will be fractionated using dry fraction step where the palm will be separated as Stearin and Olein. Olein will be used as edible oil in salads, cooking and other frying applications and stearin further converted to Margarine and Bakery fats.
The palm oil will be pretreated with phosphoric acid to react with phosphatides and other undesirable component of 85-90% concentration with 0.05% to 0.2% of phosphoric acid based on the quality of the oil pre heated to 85-90°C and with residence time of 15 to 20 minutes.
The pre treated oil taken into the bleacher under a vacuum of 650 – 700 mm hg and with a raise in temperature upto 110°C by mixing the bleaching earth 0.8% to 2% based on the quality of the crude palm oil with a retention time of 30 to 45 minutes and all unwanted compounds are coagulated and absorbed by the bleaching earth.
The slurry will be filtered using Pressure leaf filters either vertical or horizontal type and filter management system will be implemented with the help pre coat and recycling system till to get clear oil.
The spent bleaching earth contains 20 – 25% oil will be discharged. This pre treatment and bleaching could be carried out either by batch, semi continuous or continuous plants based on the capacity and requirement.
Feed Specification of Oil
20 ppm max
Peroxide value (mEqO2/Kg)
Output oil specification
Pre-treated bleached oil
Losses of Bleaching
22-25% on bleaching earth used
Utility consumption for Pre treatment and Bleaching sections.
Steam (2 barg) for heating during steady state condition
Steam (10 barg) for vacuum system
2.3 m3/MT (At 30°C, non scaling and non aggressive, with a temperature increase of max. 6°C)
0.8 – 1 Kg/MT
1 Nm³/min during 2 or 3 times for filter vibrator at each filter @ 6 bar g discharge, 5 Nm³/min for instrumentation
Steam required for PLF blow off is not included in the above table as drying time and blowing time varies from plant to plant and also based on skill of the operator.
Deodorisation and De-acidification
The Pre treated, bleached palm oil should be taken through a polish filters and heated upto 220°C and de aerated and further temperature raised to 240 – 270°C at 2mm Hg absolute vacuum for a period of 45 to 60 minutes passing through a live steam with the help mammoth pumps and oil is get agitated and strip off the fatty acids to fatty acid circulation column where the fatty acids are circulated, cooled and transferred to Fatty acid storage tank.
The oil after de acidification and deodorization will be used to recover the heat energy with help of shell and tube or plate heat exchangers and maximum heat energy will be re used with counter current flow of incoming oil. The oil temperature is raised using traditional thermic fluid heaters and modern high pressure steam to raise the temperature upto 270°C. This temperature will help to do thermal bleach of oil and also to strip off final traces of FFA. New invention of packed columns during 90s will made the palm oil de acidification simpler and easier. The Final product is refined, bleached and deodorized (RBD) palm oil with bland taste and very light color.
De-acidification Deodorizing Section:
Feed Oil Specification
Quality of RBD Oil
Commercially acceptable colour
0.2 + 1.15 x FFA removed
Utility consumption for Pre treatment and Bleaching sections (per 1,000 kg feed oil at 90 C):
Electric Power (including thermic fluid heater)
Steam (10 barg) FOR Vac. System
Steam (2 barg) FOR Sparging
50 – 90 gm/MT
LDO consumption for TF Heater
3 – 4 kg + 0.1 kg per % of FFA at inlet
(Oil is supposed to be supplied at 85°C and the plant carefully insulated according to the specifications of the supplier)
(Based on light fuel with a LCV of 10,200 Kcal/kg)
Barometric Cooling Water
9.8 m3 at a dT of about 6°C
(At 32°C, non scaling and non aggressive, with a temperature increase of max. 6°C)
Indirect Cooling Water
11.6 m3/MT at a dT of about 6°C
(At 32°C, non scaling and non aggressive, with a temperature increase of max. 6°C)
Instrument Air @ 6 barg
Dry Fractionation of Palm Oil
Fractionation is purest modification process as it is basically a reversible physical separation process. The fractionation of the oils or fats is a thermo mechanical separation process where high & low melting triglycerides are separated by partial crystallization, followed by filtration.
The dry fractionation is the most widely used process & it is employed to separate solid & liquid triglycerides from numerous sources of fat. The key point in dry fractionation is the selectivity of crystallization which is determined by the thermal condition & more specifically by the cooling profile. The triglycerides are characterized by a complex melting & crystallization behavior due to the existence of multiple crystalline forms (α, β’, β) each from having its specific physical properties.
Crystallization is complicated by the inter solubility of the triglycerides. Different components may combine to form mixed crystals, according to nature of the crystal form. The triglycerides found in the palm oil have different melting points. At certain temperatures, the lower melting temperature triglycerides will stay liquid while the higher melting temperature triglycerides will crystallize into solid, separating the oils into both liquid & solid fractions.
The crystals are separated by filtration. To obtain good separation, the Stearin crystals must indeed be firm & of uniform spherical size which is a condition found when they are mainly in the β form. To reach this state, the oil is initially heated to a temperature above the final melting point of the oil, in order to fully destroy the crystals that are present in the oil phase.
Thereafter, the oil is cooled in a controlled manner to the separation temperature. During this step, super cooling occurs & results in nucleation and crystal growth. After stabilization, the crystal & oil phases are separated by filtration.
The temperature is usually 60° to 65° C in order to melt the residual crystals of the former cycle. In the crystallizer, the oil is cooled to its filtration temperature following a well determined cooling which ensures the formation of good crystals. Thanks to a simple thermostatic control of the cooling water & to uniform oil cooling, crystallization is carried out without undesirable temperature increase
Separation by Filtration
The crystallized oil is pumped out of the crystallizers to the membrane filter press by slow rotating volumetric pump. The crystallized oil is fed into all chambers & the olein flows through a fine filter cloth covering each frame. The cake left in the chamber between two recessed filter frames is squeezed between the two opposite frames by progressive air / oil pressure applied on the back of the frames. After squeezing the cakes, the pressure is released and the press is opened to allow cake discharge. This all operations will be carried out automatically.
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