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Importance of Oleochemicals and Trends in the Industry

importance of oleochemicals and trends in the industry

The production of sustainable, bio-based chemicals has increased as consumers become better educated about the environmental and cost benefits oleochemicals can provide. Understanding what oleochemicals are and what they are used for is essential in today’s ever-changing market. To meet the demands of their consumers, manufacturers are looking to oleochemicals as renewable, sustainable alternatives in the chemical sourcing industry. Bio-based chemical production is essential in markets that prioritize functionality, and as the global population increases, so will the demand for sustainable sourcing. The demand for oleochemicals will increase more and more as the movement for environmentally-friendly products progresses and as the cost of oil rises.

What Are Oleochemicals?

Oleochemicals are chemical compounds derived from natural fats and oils that can be used as raw materials or as supplemental materials in a variety of industries. Oleochemicals can be used as a substitute for petroleum-based products known as petrochemicals. Manufacturers began switching from petrochemicals to oleochemicals in the late 1970s due to the rise in prices of crude oil and the affordability of plant-based lauric oils produced from palm kernels. Fatty acids, the largest application for oleochemicals, and other basic oleochemical substances are produced by various chemical and enzymatic reactions.

Oleochemicals are produced using chemical processes such as water-based hydrolysis, alcohol-based alcoholysis and hydrogenation, to name a few. Oleochemicals contain few if any carcinogens, making them a safer option than their synthetic chemical alternatives. Some oleochemicals that are commonly used in today’s market include:

  • Palm oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Soy

What Are Oleochemicals Used For?

Oleochemicals are used in a wide range of industries including:

  • Personal care
  • Cosmetics
  • Coatings, adhesives, elastomers and sealants
  • Household and industrial cleaning
  • Lubricants, grease and metalworking
  • Food
  • Pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals
What Are Oleochemicals Used For

Personal Care

Oleochemicals are used in personal care products such as hair care and skin care essentials. They have gained popularity since they tend to be allergen-free and rarely contain carcinogens. Glycerine (also known as glycerol) is derived from vegetable fats and is commonly used for its moisturizing properties. AHCOHOL 1618 is a combination of both natural and synthetic sources but is primarily vegetable-based and hypoallergenic. It is often used in personal care products as a thickening agent.

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Cosmetics

The cosmetics industry relies on oleochemicals to create safe products for its consumers. Octyl stearate is a palm derivative used as an emollient for lipstick and eyeshadow, while polyhexanide is a water-based preservative and antibacterial chemical used in many makeup products. Not only can cosmetics using natural ingredients be healthier for the consumer, but they tend to perform better as well.

Coatings, Adhesives, Elastomers and Sealants

Oleochemical coatings and adhesives have a variety of uses in the architectural, construction and industrial fields. Bio-based products have gained attention as concern for the environment increases. Castor oil is used as a varnish and coating additive as well as an emulsifier in industrial sealants and a carrier of pigment in paint. Zinc stearate can be used as a lubricant add-in or as a flattening agent in paint and coating.

Households and Industrial Cleaning

Oleochemicals are commonly used in the production of household and industrial cleaning products such as:

  • Surfactants
  • Cleansing agents
  • Emulsifiers
  • Foam boosters
  • Degreasers

AHCOHOL 0898 is a 98-percent pure octyl alcohol solution used as a starting material for various sulfates as well as an emulsifying agent in metalworking fluids. Coconut fatty acids can be used as a lubricant for metals, as a degreasing agent for machinery, as a conditioner for leather goods and as a wax to polish wood.

Lubricants, Grease and Metalworking

Primarily used in the automotive and industrial fields, oleochemical lubricants and greases decrease friction between moving parts or seal gaps between mechanical pieces. Dioctyl sebacate’s cold and heat resistant properties make it the ideal choice as a base for engine lubricating oils, and due to its low C18 content, rubber grade stearic acid is best used in the manufacturing of lubrication and grease.  

Food and Beverage

Oleochemicals are used in the production of FDA-approved food packaging as well as sanitizers for food contact surfaces. Calcium stearate is used as a food emulsifier as well as a flow agent when manufacturing candy. Triple pressed stearic acid is used in food and beverage manufacturing as a hardening additive as well as a mold-release agent when manufacturing candy.

Pharmaceuticals and Nutraceuticals

In the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industry, oleochemicals can be used as preservatives, thickening agents and emollients. Isopropyl myristate is used as a moisturizer in topical medicinal products as well as an emollient or thickening agent in other pharmaceutical applications. Glycerine 99.7% aids in the manufacturing of cough syrups and oral care products acting as a humectant.

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Benefits of Palm Oil-Based Oleochemicals

Palm oil presents a significant benefit over other oil crops due to its competitive price, increased efficiency and high productivity. Palm oil is significantly less expensive than soybean oil, and despite the fluctuating nature in price, it is considered the most affordable oil for consumers in low-income countries. Oil palm is able to grow on land deemed less suitable for other crops and still generate commercially viable yields. Palm-oil farms also require less fertilizer, pesticides and energy, which makes it a more eco-friendly choice. Additionally, since they are perennial plants, oil palms have the added benefit of reliability since they are productive year-round. In order for palm oil to be produced in a sustainable manner, there are guidelines set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Trends in the Oleochemicals Industry

As non-renewable resources become depleted and environmental regulations become stricter, oleochemicals are on the rise as sustainable substitutes. The growth of the oleochemical market is driven by a number of factors, such as:  

  • Availability of raw materials
  • High demand from consumers
  • Growth of the green chemicals market

The demand for oleochemicals is expected to increase in applications such as personal care, detergents and foods and beverages. Glycerol is expected to see the highest amount of growth over the next few years due to its increasing preference in applications such as personal care and food and beverage products.  

Trust Acme-Hardesty for Quality Oleochemicals and Other Bio-Based Products

Acme-Hardesty provides manufacturers with renewable and sustainable ingredients to meet the requests of their customers. As the demand for oleochemicals continues to increase, Acme-Hardesty will be there to meet those needs — continually expanding our product line and developing renewable, bio-based solutions for the future. Sustainability has been our key focus from the beginning, and we have grown into one of the largest distributors of bio-based products and specialty ingredients in the chemical industry. Choose Acme-Hardesty as your trusted oleochemical supplier today.