palm kernel oil refinery plant

Setting up a palm kernel oil refinery plant is no piece of cake. As if researching the market - from finding a reliable source for the inputs of your process to identifying demand for your final product - does not have its own set of challenges, the process of setting up a palm kernel oil refining operation also comes with a fair bit of complexity.

This resource is a step-by-step guide to setting up a palm kernel oil processing plant – covering the technical aspects of identifying quality equipment and the more subtle aspects of building long-lasting relationships with the partners who will support you through the entire journey.

What is palm kernel oil? How is it extracted?

Palm kernel oil comes from oil palm trees, native to West Africa, with the scientific name Elaeis guineensis. While palm kernel oil’s more popular sibling palm oil is extracted from the fruit of the tree, palm kernel oil itself is extruded from the seed, or the kernel, of the plant.

Semi-solid at room temperatures, palm kernel oil is more saturated than other typically tropical oils. Not always, but generally, palm oil has more applications as an edible plant oil, whereas palm kernel oil has important uses in soaps, cosmetics and as feedstock for oleochemicals. Nonetheless, palm kernel oil is also used for cooking and frying, given its high heat stability, and also serves as feedstock for cocoa butter substitutes.

Extracting palm kernel oil involves multiple steps of oilseed preparation, right from cleaning, disintegrating, flaking and conditioning the kernels, to two rounds of pressing through an expeller press or oil expeller machine. The cake that is left behind from this process further undergoes solvent extraction to extract as much oil as possible from the kernels. And finally, all the extracted oil is transferred to a palm kernel oil refinery plant to make it safe and suitable for human consumption and other uses.

The best palm kernel oil extraction machine is usually easily installed, long lasting, and low on maintenance requirements. It should ensure maximum oil extraction, while having minimal power requirements. Like Kumar’s PK Series Expeller, it should make sure that your process is completely free of contamination. A single chamber expeller, with durable parts and an independent gearbox, make for the best palm kernel oil processing machines.

What does the palm kernel oil refining process involve?

Now that we’ve got a sense of what a good palm kernel oil extraction machine looks like, let’s move on to the palm kernel oil refining process.

The crude oil, the final product of the extraction process, is then taken to the refining process which involves pretreatment and bleaching followed by deodorization. After this, the physically refined oil undergoes fractionation to procure palm kernel liquid fraction at the last stage of your work in the refinery.

Pretreatment is the stage of the physical refining process during which traces of gums and impurities are eliminated from tropical oils. During bleaching, colour pigments and traces of soap are removed by the addition of bleaching earth under specific conditions. After this, the palm kernel oil makes its way to the important process of deodorization – here, the oil is rid of odoriferous compounds, volatile components and free fatty acids so that it can meet the stringent parameters of the oils and fats industry. There are a number of factors that characterise the best palm kernel oil processing machine, which we will discuss elsewhere in this article. Finally, the deodorized oil undergoes fractionation, during which triglycerides of high and low melting points are separated by crystallisation, followed by filtration. What remains after all these processes the palm oil kernel liquid fraction which is then packaged and transported to wherever it will be sold.

A guide to setting up a palm kernel oil refinery plant

Putting in place a whole new palm kernel oil refinery plant is a complex process and involves multiple stages of planning and execution. You will have to go through all the below steps – not necessarily in this order – and more to ensure that you’ve taken care of every little detail that will set you up for success.

-   Define a budget

First things first: your budget. You cannot begin to get anything done without first getting a sense of how much money you will have to invest and in what. As you speak with equipment manufacturers, raw material suppliers, and research real estate availability, you might come back and revise this budget, but having a planned budget is imperative before you actually break ground on your plant. Make sure you account for not only CAPEX costs like space for your facility and equipment costs, but also operational costs which will tide you through the first few years of your operation worry-free.

Invest in a space

You must decide on the logistics and scale of your palm kernel oil processing plant well in advance. This will help you determine what kind of process you need – batch refining or continuous refining – to refine your oil. The location of your space will determine how much you will invest in transporting inputs from their source to your facility and packaged palm kernel oil from your facility to where it will be sold. Also, having clarity on the production capacity you are aspiring towards will help you select a space which will comfortably accommodate every palm kernel oil processing machine you need.

Equip your plant with machinery

The palm kernel oil refining process involves multiple stages, as we’ve mentioned before. And each stage requires a different piece of machinery.

For starters, your palm kernel oil refinery plant needs bleachers. It would make economic sense to invest in space-saving machinery which has relatively low power consumption. Also consider ease and comfort of access and maintenance; features which allow you to monitor the refining process and intervene when needed, accompanied by features which help ensure product quality, are ideal. If these factors are at the top of your mind, Kumar’s Ecopure Bleacher will be your best bet. In a single vessel, it houses a slurry mixer and a bleacher to save space, and also uses both mechanical agitation and sparging steam to enhance the effectiveness of the bleaching process.

If you desire even lower power consumption from your bleacher, Kumar’s Stable Bleacher is another great option. Given that it is a steam-agitated bleacher, it has zero power consumption. Given that all equipment is completely static, there are no wear and tear parts, which means fewer maintenance requirements.

When it comes to deodorizers, find one which is specifically suited to palm kernel oil which has a high FFA content. Kumar’s Ecopack Deodorizer, for instance, is designed specifically to reduce the formation of trans fats; its specially designed stripping column operates with a minimum pressure drop. It also has an inbuilt vacuum heat recovery heat exchanger and low steam consumption in its sparging steam arrangement, making it a energy-effective choice.

On the whole, it is best if all your equipment is constructed using high quality durable stainless steel with specially treated plants that minimise wear and tear and assure you of longevity.

-   Source your raw materials – sustainability is key!

Where you procure your palm fruit or palm oil is important to not only the quality, but also the sustainability of your refining process. Seek out producers who stand by environmentally-friendly practices in their cultivation and processing of palm oil and palm kernel oil. There are several organisations which certify the sustainability of oil palm cultivation; make use of such tools to identify a raw material supplier whose values you stand by.

Plan for maintenance

Your equipment-related concerns are never over with the purchase of the best palm kernel oil processing machine out there. Whether it is an expeller press, solvent extraction machine, bleacher or deodorizer, all your equipment will need timely maintenance so that they can serve you effectively for long periods of time. When you choose an equipment partner, go for one who offers a comprehensive annual maintenance contract, protecting you from the risk of unanticipated repair and maintenance costs in the future.

These steps are just the beginning of setting up a palm kernel oil processing plant; the next step is reaching out to a reliable partner for get your processes up and running. Companies like ours have been serving clients in the oils and fats industry for over 80 years. We have built fruitful relationships with our more than 500 customers. They keep coming back to us for our robustly engineered, versatile and operationally profitable equipment. Whatever your challenge, you can depend on our expert team for a solution.

Since 1939, Kumar has been delivering dependable process engineering solutions to the oils and fats industry. We're known for our robustly engineered, versatile, and operationally profitable plant and machinery. It's why customers all over the world depend on us to solve their processing challenges, big or small. If you'd like to know more about our solutions, please fill out the form below:

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