Palm oil

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Palm oil
Palm oil;  the reddish color is recognizable.
Raw material plant (noun)

Oil palm ( Elaeis guineensis )




orange-yellow to brown-red; light yellow (refined)

Oleic acid 32-57%
Linoleic acid 6.4-15%
Palmitic acid 32-57%
Myristic acid 0.5-2%
More fatty acids 2-6.5% stearic acid
Σ saturated fat 49%
Σ monounsaturated fatty acids 39%
Σ polyunsaturated fatty acids 11%
Other ingredients Tocopherol 400-700 mg / kg, carotenoids 500 mg / kg
density 0.921-0.947 kg / l at 15 ° C
viscosity = 54 mm 2 / s (at 20 ° C)
Oxidation stability 23.9 h
Melting point 30-37 ° C
Smoke point 223 ° C
Flash point 267 ° C; 284 ° C; 323 ° C
Iodine number 34-61
Saponification number 196-205
Calorific value 39.5 MJ / kg
Cetane number 42; 69.8
Manufacturing and Consumption
Production worldwide 39 million t (2007/08)

61.46 million t (2014/15)

Most important production countries Indonesia , Malaysia , Thailand , Colombia
use Nutrition, bioenergy , industry

Palm oil is a vegetable oil obtained from the pulp of the fruit of the oil palm . Palm kernel oil is obtained from the kernels of the fruit and consists of more than 80% saturated fats (mainly lauric acid is bound). Oil palms are three times as productive as rapeseed and take up about 1/6 of the area of soy for the same yield .

Palm oil

Palm oil (also: palm fat ) is obtained from the pulp of the palm fruits. The fruits are sterilized and pressed, which results in the raw palm oil, CPO (Crude Palm Oil) . Because of their high carotene content, fruits and oil have an orange-yellow to brown-red color, which is removed during refining . Pure and fresh palm oil has a specific violet odor, a sweetish, pleasant taste and is clear and light in color. However, commercial oil is mostly cloudy and colored due to less careful preparation methods. The oil also becomes increasingly cloudy and smells more intense as it ages. This aging process, also known as fermentation , is caused by microorganisms. The melting range of palm oil is between 27 ° C and 42 ° C, depending on its composition.

General chemical structure of oils, such as palm oil. Like other oils, palm oil is a mixture of tri esters of glycerine . In the figure, R 1 , R 2 and R 3 stand for alkyl radicals (approx. 50%) or alkenyl radicals (approx. 50%) with a mostly uneven number of carbon atoms.

As in all vegetable oils, various fatty acids are bound in triglycerides in palm oil ; it also contains tocopherols, carotenoids and small amounts of sterols . The main concern is β-sitosterol , which can be detected by high-temperature gas chromatography .

In addition to a suppressed fermentation process, which is reflected in color and smell, in the past another quality criterion in the international trade in palm oil was the content of free fatty acids in the oil. Oils with a lower content of acidic components were considered to be of higher quality and were therefore also more expensive. Above all, the acid content could increase unpleasantly through improper pressing.

Palm kernel oil

Palm kernel oil
Raw material plant (noun)

Oil palm ( Elaeis guineensis )


Seeds (kernels)


white to yellowish-white (refined, firm); light to orange-yellow

Oleic acid 9-21%
Linoleic acid 1–3.5%
Palmitic acid 6.5-10.3%
Lauric acid 40-55%
Myristic acid 14-18%
More fatty acids 1.3-3% stearic acid, 2.6-5% capric acid , 1.9-6.2% caprylic acid
Σ saturated fat 83%
Σ monounsaturated fatty acids 15%
Σ polyunsaturated fatty acids 2%
density 0.925-0.935 kg / l at 15 ° C
viscosity = 24 mm 2 / s (at 40 ° C)
Melting point 25-30 ° C
Smoke point 220 ° C
Iodine number 14-22
Saponification number 242-254
Calorific value 39.6 MJ / kg
Manufacturing and Consumption
Production worldwide 6.6 million t (2014)
Most important production countries Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil
use Industry, food, oleochemicals

Palm kernel oil is obtained from the kernels of the oil fruits. The kernels are dried, ground and then pressed. Like coconut oil, palm kernel oil is one of the lauric oils , i. This means that it contains a large proportion (up to 55%) of the saturated fatty acid lauric acid in bound form. It is one of the solid vegetable fats. Of the triglycerides contained, 60% are three times saturated (19.8% with three times lauric acid, 14.1% with twice lauric acid, once myristic acid). Another 25% carry 2 saturated fatty acids and one oleic acid. Additional possible palmitic acid , capric acid , caprylic acid , stearic acid , linoleic acid , caproic and other free fatty acids in lesser amount before. The tocopherols are mainly composed of β- and γ- tocopherol , little α-tocopherol, α- and γ- tocotrienol . The sterols (around 1300 ppm in total) are mainly composed of β-sitosterol (around 900 ppm), less stigmasterol (around 150 ppm) and campestrol (around 120 ppm), small amounts (around 100 ppm in total) D5-Avenasterol, cholesterol and D7-Stigmasterol, as well as 4-methylsterols ( Citrostadienol 126 ppm, Gramisterol 80 ppm, Obtusifoliol 52 ppm) together. Other ingredients are triterpene alcohols ( cycloartenol 295 ppm, α-amyrin 209 ppm, lupeol 94 ppm, butyrospermol 65 ppm, β-amyrin and 24-methylenecycloartenol 29 ppm each). Asian palm kernel oils also contain free and bound lactones , as well as methyl-n-nonyl ketone and squalene .

The composition of palm kernel oil differs significantly from palm oil, the raw oil is light to orange-yellow, after refining an almost white to slightly yellowish fat is obtained. Palm kernel oil is solid at room temperature, the melting range is between 23 and 30 ° C. At body temperature, however, it then melts quickly, leaving behind a pleasant cooling effect. It is therefore often used in cocoa glazes , ice confectionery and ice cream coatings and cool-melting chocolate fillings. Through various modification processes, high-quality special fats for the confectionery industry can be produced from palm kernel oil.

Palm kernel oil is also used as a solid component in margarine production . It is also used to a large extent in the manufacture of oleochemical intermediates that are used in the cosmetics and detergent industries. It is also used in the aluminum industry .

According to the FAO, 6.6 million tons of palm kernel oil were produced worldwide in 2014. The ten largest producers together generated around 95.2% of the world's harvest. The largest producing countries were Indonesia and Malaysia, which together produced around 85% of the world's harvest.

Production worldwide and growing areas

With a 30 percent market share, palm oil is the most widely grown vegetable oil in the world, ahead of soybean oil . The world production of palm oil has increased in some cases over 15% in recent years. In 2014, 57.3 million tons of palm oil were produced worldwide; in 2015 it was already 60 million tons. For comparison: in 2001 it was 24.8 million tons.

The most important growing countries for oil palms are Indonesia and Malaysia with together 85.4% of the world production (2014 approx. 57.3 million tons of palm oil). Indonesia alone has increased its production threefold since 2002 and overtook the market leader Malaysia in the 2006 financial year. The acreage in Malaysia and Indonesia has increased sixfold since 1990. Ascending trend. According to WWF , Indonesia alone plans to expand the plantations to 20 million hectares by 2025 - half of which should be in Borneo .

The hydrophobicity and high viscosity of palm oil
Top 10 countries, palm oil production 2013

Indonesia's world market share is 51.1% and Malaysia 34.3%. Other production countries such as Thailand (3.2%), Colombia (1.9%) and Nigeria (1.6%) only play a marginal role.

The world's largest trading company for palm oil is Wilmar International . Also to be mentioned are the companies Sime Darby , IOI Group and Kuala Lumpur Kepong , which own the Southeast Asian plantations . The main customers for palm oil are mainly in Europe and Asia. India is the most important importer, ahead of the European Union, China and Pakistan . In China and India in particular, food use increased sharply, increasing by 4.5% and 1.2% in 2006/07 alone Million tons. In contrast, industrial use increased by 8.9% or 710,000 tons , primarily due to the production of biodiesel .


According to the specialist agency for renewable raw materials , around 68% of the palm and palm kernel oil produced worldwide was used in 2010 for food (e.g. margarine, salad and cooking oil), and around 27% for industrial purposes (e.g. cleaning agents, cosmetics, candles) and 5% used for energy generation. According to Greenpeace and WWF, palm oil is now found in around every second product that can be bought in German supermarkets.

Palm oil is made from the pulp of the oil palm , palm kernel oil is obtained from the kernels of the oil fruits.

Use as food

Palm oil and palm kernel oil are mostly used in nutrition. Due to its excellent heat and oxidation stability, palm oil is mainly used in Asia and Africa as an edible fat for cooking, frying and deep-frying. It is also used internationally for the production of baked goods, margarine and confectionery. Accordingly, it is well suited for heating (frying), as it contains hardly any polyunsaturated fatty acid residues which can be rearranged into the physiologically questionable trans fatty acid residues when heated . Red (unrefined) palm oil contains an unusually high concentration of carotenes and vitamin E , especially tocotrienols . One tablespoon of red palm oil already contains more than the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin A , beta-carotene and vitamin E. The manufacturer specifies a content of 400 to 800 ppm of tocopherol and tocotrienol as well as carotenes. Red palm oil is one of the best sources of tocotrienols, a group of vitamin E isomers whose health benefits over tocopherols have been researched for approximately 25 years.

Palm kernel oil is also used to a large extent in the manufacture of margarine, which gives it a butter-like taste. Through various changes, palm kernel oil can also be converted into high-quality special fats for the confectionery industry. In addition, due to its melting properties, it is used for cocoa glazes, ice confectionery, cream coatings and fast-melting chocolate fillings, toffees and caramel . Because palm kernel oil is solid at room temperature, but then quickly melts at body temperature and leaves a pleasant cooling effect.

Use in detergents and cleaning agents

Palm kernel oil is used for the production of surfactants , the washing-active substances in conventional and ecological cleaning agents. All detergents and cleaning agents contain proportions of 3–30% surfactants, which are either made from petroleum or from tropical oils, mainly palm kernel oil. With ever larger areas of palm oil cultivation in Asia and, to a lesser extent, South America and Africa, as well as the trend towards renewable raw materials, the proportion of surfactants based on palm kernel oil is rapidly increasing, despite the associated ecological and social problems. Palm kernel oil does not have to be declared in detergents and cleaning agents and is therefore not explicitly mentioned in the ingredients. The information on anionic, nonionic or amphoteric surfactants does not give any indication of their origin. Sugar surfactants (also known as fatty acid glycosides ) are based on palm oils , and they also contain plant-based cleaning agents with ingredients that are labeled with lauryl or coco (such as cocamidopropyl betaine , coco-glucoside , lauryl glucoside , sodium coco sulfate , cocoate , Sodium lauryl sulfate etc.) usually palm kernel oil.

According to statements from the manufacturers and according to the palm oil consumption of the individual manufacturers, renouncing palm kernel oil as a raw material for cleaning agents is difficult to assess these days. According to the “Forum Waschen” (the industrial association of body care and detergents), the vegetable oils produced in Central Europe for surfactant production are currently not technically suitable for most applications and cleaning agents based on European oils are hardly available with a few exceptions.

Other industrial uses

Palm kernel oil is combined with coconut oil to form lauric oils due to its specific properties and is used for a wide range of other applications in oleochemistry . Like palm oil, these oils are used to extract lauric acid and are used as a base for various surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate and sorbitan monolaureate . Other products based on palm and palm kernel oil are used in various products in the cosmetics and cleaning industries.

Palm oil as an energy source

Palm oil tanks at a bio power plant are filled

The oil palm has a very high yield of oil - and therefore energy - per area. One hectare of palm oil plantation yields 4 to 6 tons of palm oil per year, depending on the type of palm, weather and care. Rapeseed produces only 1.5 to 2.5 tons of rapeseed oil per hectare of cultivated area per year. Since palm oil also contains bonded hydrocarbon chains that are similar to those of mineral oils, it can be mixed with conventional diesel without any problems after transesterification . For these reasons, palm oil as a renewable energy source is partly certified as having a good ecological and energy balance.

However, if palm oil is grown on a large scale and competes with the tropical rainforest , which is the case with a large part of the current cultivated area, then the effects on the environment are negative.

In 2018, the EU stipulated in the EU climate protection and energy framework to freeze the proportion of palm oil in biodiesel at the level of 2019 and to ban it altogether from 2030. In 2016, 41% of Germany's palm oil imports were intended for use in biodiesel.

Malaysia was preparing a mandatory switch from diesel to biofuels in 2008. Since 2007 diesel sold in Malaysia has to contain 5% esterified palm oil. In addition, the Malaysian government is supporting the construction of palm oil biodiesel plants by the Finnish company Neste Oil in the country due to rising mineral oil prices . The first plant in Porvoo , Finland , started production of “Next Generation Biomass-to-Liquid” (NExBtL) with an annual capacity of 170,000 tons. The NExBtL produced there has a cetane number of 84 to 99 and, depending on the driving cycle, showed up to 45% fewer particle emissions and up to 20% less nitrogen oxides (NO x ) in driving tests with buses . Another advantage is the low production costs, which are around a quarter compared to other types of biodiesel. Two more plants are under construction and should start producing 800,000 t per year each in Singapore and Rotterdam in 2011 . The plans for a palm oil refinery in Germany at the Emden site failed at the beginning of 2007.

The fuel is made from palm oil after pre-treatment with phosphoric acid and caustic soda . The oil is treated with hydrogen (hydrogenated) at temperatures of 320 to 360 ° C and up to 80 bar pressure with the addition of a catalyst . The hydrogen is generated in Porvoo in a steam reformer powered by natural gas . The waste materials (sludge, gases and petrol residues) generated in the process are used to generate electricity and steam in a combined heat and power plant .

Ecological and socio-ethical problems

Young palm oil plantation in East Malaysia
Palm oil plantation

Mainly because of the demand as a raw product for the cost-effective production of biofuels , candles , detergents and food products , the associated deforestation of large rainforest areas to create plantations in the oil palm growth areas, the cultivation of oil palms has come under international criticism, both from environmental organizations and politically . According to current estimates, oil palms are currently being grown in an ecologically unsustainable manner. Various environmental protection organizations, in Germany in particular Greenpeace and Rettet den Regenwald , point out that large-scale tropical rainforests are being destroyed for the construction of new oil palm plantations. These statements have been corroborated by research based on FAO data that between 1990 and 2005 1.87 million hectares of oil palm plantations were created in Malaysia and more than 3 million hectares in Indonesia, more than half of which was due to deforestation originated.

While a certification system for palm oil and other biogenic energy sources, which has been prescribed by law in the Biomass Power Sustainability Ordinance since 2007 , is intended to guarantee the ecological and social sustainability of cultivation in the future and thus prevent unwanted effects such as deforestation and human rights violations, the production of other palm oil products such as cosmetics and margarine will continue not be subject to sustainability criteria. The in 2003 on the initiative of WWF , founded Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil ( Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil , RSPO) tries for palm oil to promote and to limit the environmental damage sustainable farming practices as a central organization. In addition to environmental protection associations and other NGOs , members of the round table are primarily companies and institutions from the palm oil value chain, including plantation operators, traders and industrial buyers of palm oil, but also investors and banks. Time and again, NGOs criticize that the representatives of the palm oil industry are by far in the majority (394 representatives from the palm oil industry versus 22 representatives from the environment and social affairs) and that the influence of industrial interests on the certification is therefore too high.

Since June 2011, food manufacturers and retailers can apply for a seal from the RSPO. It identifies foods and cosmetics that contain RSPO-certified palm oil. According to self-promotion, the seal guarantees that no tropical rainforests have been cleared or peat bogs drained for the palm oil. Save the rainforest , however, states that the RSPO seal neither excludes rainforest clearing, nor does it take climate protection into account in any way. Another criticism at the RSPO is that monocultures are permitted.

Workers are said to have been lured in with false promises and forced to do hard labor . Thousands of children are reported to have been forced to work on palm oil plantations. The indigenous population is partly driven out by the RSPO-certified companies with violence, human rights violations are hardly punished. The herbicide paraquat is also used in many palm oil plantations, causing thousands of cases of poisoning among plantation workers and smallholders every year. Paraquat is banned in the European Union, Switzerland and some other countries for health reasons.

Reports of arson in order to make room for new palm oil plantations appear again and again. B. Sumatra 2014. Spektrum writes in 2014: “From the sedimentation basin of a typical Southeast Asian palm oil plantation alone, over 3,000 tons of methane escape per year - this corresponds to the carbon dioxide emissions of more than 22,000 cars in the USA in the same period. The total methane emissions of Indonesian producers increase the country's greenhouse gas emissions by a third. "

Even organic palm oil should not necessarily be more sustainable in cultivation and production, with the exception of a small part that is grown in African cooperatives. The Research Institute for Organic Agriculture , on the other hand, sees clear advantages in organic farming .

Alternatives and approaches

Due to the high yield of the palm oil plantations of around 3.3 tons per hectare and year, palm oil is very beneficial from the point of view of avoiding land use. Switching to other oils and fats is therefore difficult and would have to be largely to coconut oil , which has similar properties in terms of usability. This would increase land consumption by around five times and also increase greenhouse gas emissions by around 308 million tons. With the exception of its use in the production of biodiesel, there are therefore not many more environmentally friendly alternatives to palm oil. However, 50% of palm oil could be saved in Germany if it were no longer used as a raw material for biodiesel and, where it is still easily possible, replaced by oils from national agriculture. In 2016, 41% of the palm oil imported into Germany was used as fuel after it was converted into biodiesel.

Health risks

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) warns of so-called process contaminants in foods that contain refined palm oil. These are undesirable substances that arise during industrial processing. These pollutants can also occur in foods with other strongly heated vegetable oils and fats as ingredients. They are glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE), 3-MCPD fatty acid esters and 2-MCPD fatty acid esters . The highest concentrations of these esters were found in palm oils and palm fats, followed by other oils and fats, according to the EFSA. According to the EFSA risk study, palm oil / palm fat contains an average of 3,955 μg / kg (micrograms per kilogram) glycidol , whereas sunflower oil contains 269 ​​μg / kg, rapeseed oil 166 μg / kg, and olive oil 15 μg / kg. Similar ratios are given for 3-MCPD and 2-MCPD.

Glycidol has mutagenic and carcinogenic properties and has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) as “probably carcinogenic in humans” (Group 2A). The agency considers 3-MCPD to be genotoxic .

Media outlets and consumer protection organizations have had branded products - including baby milk, cookies, chocolate, children's snacks and potato chips - that contain palm oil tested in laboratories and published reports on the contaminants found in them.

The EU adopted a gradual reduction in contamination, the maximum values ​​of which for glycidyl fatty acid esters are set in Regulation (EU) 2018/290.

Quality in Europe

In Europe, palm oil is sold in so-called Asia shops as "Unrefined Palmoil" in containers of 500 ml and 1000 ml.


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Web links

Wiktionary: Palm oil  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Palm Oil  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

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