Introduction to Oleochemical
"Oleochemicals" in the broad sense are chemicals derived from natural fats and oils, irrespective of whether they are derived from animal, marine or vegetable sources. Similar chemicals may be synthesized petrochemicals but they are classified as Synthetic Chemicals and not oleochemicals.
The products currently manufactured by oleochemical companies in ASEAN are mainly basic oleochemicals which include fatty acids, glycerine, methylesters and fatty alcohols. Basic oleochemicals may be referred to as the building blocks of the chemical industry. Using these basic building blocks as raw materials, a downstream chemical industry can be established. Examples of downstream oleochemicals and derivatives are fatty amines, soaps, alkanolamides, esters, etc.
Uses of Oleochemicals
Oleochemicals are used as raw materials for detergents and cosmetics. They are used in the production of plasticisers and as additives for plastics, rubber and textiles. They are used in the production of paint and surface coatings. The food and pharmaceutical industries use them in a variety of applications. In fact in any processing, oleochemicalscan be found being used directly or indirectly, as base materials, as additives or as process aids.
Characteristics of the ASEAN Oleochemical Industry
The industry is capital intensive, high-tech, export orientated and uses minimal labour. Unlike synthetic chemicals which are dependent on depletive feedstocks, the ASEAN Oleochemical industry uses renewable natural raw materials namely palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil which are environment-friendly.