General Description Palm oil is extracted from the mesocarp of the fruit of an oil palm species called Elaeis guineensis. In Malaysia, the high yielding tenera, which is a cross between dura and pisifera species, is the most commonly cultivated palm tree. The Malaysian palm oil contributes to about 13% of total vegetable oil production in the world in 2011. Basically, there are two main products of the palm oil industry – palm oil and palm kernel oil. Out of these, many products could be derived. Crude palm oil is normally processed by a physical refining process in which the oil is turned into a golden yellow refined oil for further end use applications.
Properties of Palm Oil
Palm oil has a balanced fatty acid composition in which the level of saturated fatty acids is almost equal to that of the unsaturated fatty acids. Palmitic acid (44%-45%) and oleic acid (39%-40%) are the major component acids, with linoleic acid (10%-11%) and only a trace amount of linolenic acid. The low level of linoleic acid and virtual absence of linolenic acid make the oil relatively stable to oxidative deterioration. Several surveys conducted by MPOB have showed that the Malaysian palm oil has a narrow compositional range. The specifications for the palm oil are given in Malaysian Standard MS814:2007 (Table 2).
Palm oil is unique among vegetable oils because it has a significant amount of saturated acids (10%-15%) at the two-position of its triglycerides. The appreciable amounts of disaturated (POP and PPO) and monosaturated (POO, OPO and PLO) allow it to be easily separated into two products; palm olein and palm stearin. A wide range of fractions with different properties to suit requirements of the food industry is made available through dry fractionation.
Palm olein is the liquid fraction obtained from fractionation of palm oil. The fractionation process involves a physical process of cooling the oil under controlled conditions to low temperatures, followed by filtration of the crystals through membrane press. The liquid olein and solid stearin are products of fractionation, and they are the major products exported.
Palm olein is fully liquid at ambient temperature in warm climates. It can be blended with various vegetable oils in different proportions to obtain liquid oils which can withstand lower temperatures. For example, blends of palm olein with more than 70% soft oils such as soyabean oil, corn oil or canola oil remain clear at 0°C for at least 5 hr. Oxidative stability of soft oils are also extended and improved by the palm olein. Basically, there are two major grades of palm olein: standard olein and super olein (iodine value greater than 60). The standard olein has an iodine value of about 56-59 and cloud point of 10°C max. The specifications are given in Malaysian Standard MS816:2007(Table 3). Super olein is more suited to cooler climates and has cloud points of about 2°C-5°C.
Properties of Palm Olein (standard grade)
Both normal palm olein and super olein are suitable as cooking oils, especially for deep fat or shallow frying. The high stability of the oil makes it exceptionally suitable for frying purposes. A high content of tocotrienols is generally present in oleins, being partitioned preferentially into this phase during fractionation. Sold fat content shows that the oil is liquid at 20°C-25°C.
Properties of Super Olein
Super olein has a higher iodine value of 60 or above. These oleins have better clarity and lower tendency to turn cloudy compared to normal olein. Solid fat content data shows that the olein is generally clear at 17°C. It is interesting that super oleins with iodine value above 62 have much lower solid fat content. These oleins are also suitable as cooking and frying oils. Blending normal or super olein with unsaturated oils results in mixtures with different compositions and clarity to cater for different market requirements.
Palm stearin is the solid fraction from the fractionation of palm oil. It can be used for obtaining palm mid fractions (PMF) and also in blends with other vegetable oils to obtain suitable functional products such as margarine fats, shortenings, vanaspati and others. Palm stearin is a useful natural hard stock for making trans-free fats. Besides edible usage, palm stearin also possesses suitable properties for making soaps and formulating animal feeds. It is also an excellent feed stock for oleochemicals. Specifications are given in Malaysian Standard MS 815:2007 (Table 4).
All the palm oil products mentioned above are traded according to PORAM ‘s specifications (Table 5)
PALM MID FRACTION
Palm mid fraction (PMF) is a fraction of palm oil which is high in POP triglyceride. It is obtained through re-fractionation, either from the palm olein or palm stearin. The high POP content results in a sharp melting profile and a slip melting point of about 35°C-36°C. This enables the oil to be utilized in confectionery fats.
PALM KERNEL OIL
Palm kernel oil is obtained from the kernel of the oil palm fruit. Its composition and properties differ significantly from palm oil. Palm kernel oil is similar to coconut oil in terms of composition, and is produced by mechanical extraction of the kernels which are pre-dried in palm oil mills through a partial vacuum process. The quality of the oil is excellent, with free fatty acids of the crude oil generally below 2%. It is light yellow in colour and is refined physically to produce a very light coloured oil used for both edible and inedible purposes. The oil is also semi-solid at ambient temperatures. It can be further fractionated to yield a high value fraction - such as palm kernel stearin with good melting properties. The sharp melting profile also indicates that the oil is highly suitable for confectionery applications. Due to its rapid crystallization behaviour, it is often used in enrobing or dipping products. The composition of the oil is shown in Tables 6 & 7.
PALM KERNEL OLEIN
Palm kernel olein is the liquid fraction of palm kernel oil obtained when the oil is fractionated. The chemical characteristics are given in Table 8. The solid fat profile shows that the olein melts by about 25°C, compared to palm kernel oil which melts at 28°C–30°C. The oil can be hydrogenated, giving a sharper melting profile, enabling its use in coating fats. The oil is also very useful for margarine fats when interesterified with palm stearin.
PALM KERNEL STEARIN
Palm kernel stearin is the high premium product from the fractionation of palm kernel oil. The sharp solid fat content (SFC) profile indicates its suitability for use in confectionery fats. The products produced in Malaysia are consistent in quality and properties. They can be utilized directly or after further improvement by hydrogenation to an even firmer product. Palm kernel stearin, as with other palm kernel products, forms eutectic mixtures with pure cocoa butter, and thus can be mixed with the latter in confectionery products in small amounts. The characteristics of palm kernel stearin are shown in Table 9.
All the palm kernel oil products mentioned above are traded according to MEOMA‘s specifications (Table 10).
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