How is palm oil produced?

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The two YouTube clips near to the bottom of this post explain how palm oil is produced. They’re short but sweet and do the trick! But if you can’t be bothered to watch them and fancy a bit of reading, i’ve summed up below what they say…

So how does palm oil get from the tree to the table?

  • It begins at a palm oil plantation, where the perennial oil palm trees are planted. Oil palm trees bear fruit and bunches all year long; these fruits are known as fresh fruit bunches (FFPs).
  • Each fruit contains a palm kernel and a mesocarp, with both having a different function. Whilst the palm kernel produces palm kernel oil, the mesocarp produces palm oil.
  • After these FFPs are harvested, they are swiftly transported to a palm oil mill by a lorry or goods train. Normally these FFPs are transported within 24 hours from harvesting to ensure that the highest quality of oil is produced.
  • On arriving at the mill, a grading process ensues, in which the ‘good ones’ and separated from the ‘bad ones’, i.e. the unripe, rotten and overripe bunches. The ‘good ones’ then undergo a sterilisation process by  use of a saturated steam gage, enlarged pressure vessels, or cages.
  • At this point, the majority of fruits are softened and detached from their bunch and then are placed in a rotating drum which dislodges the sterilised fruits through the gaps between the bars. Meanwhile, the empty bunches are discharged from the other end.
  • These soft fruits are then converted into a harmogenous oil mash in a digester and scree press, from which crude palm oil is extracted and purified continuously through a vibrating screen, clarifier, and purifier.
  • At this point crude palm oil is not in a fit state to be used within both edible and non-food products. It needs further processing before it can be used. Thus, it can be further refined to produce refined, bleached, and deodorised palm oil, otherwise known as RBD palm oil.
  • This RBD palm oil subsequently undergoes the process of fractionation, which produces a liquid oil and a solid oil; respectively known as RBD Olein and RBD Stearin.
  • The liquid oil RBD Olein (aka. palm Olein) is an edible oil, commonly used as cooking oil by food manufacturers, restaurant operators and for general householders.
  • The solid oil RBD Stearin (aka. palm Stearin), is mainly used to produce speciality fat products e.g. margarine, shortenings, emulsifiers and ice cream.

If you’re interested in finding out about the process of palm oil production in more detail, here is a great link to check out … and if you’re just generally interested about finding out more about oil palms, here’s another one!

Note that all three following infographics can be accessed via this link

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