Vegetable oils and fats

Current estimates of the petroleum industry indicate that global oil reserves will be exhausted at our current increasing rate of consumption by the year 2040. Man will have depleted all of Earth’s "black gold" created over the course of eons in just over 150 years.

 

In more and more sectors of the industry, renewable resources are replacing petroleum for economic and environmental reasons.

As a result, the importance of vegetable oils and fats is increasing and their potential as a lasting fuel source is far from being exhausted.

 

Plant-based raw materials

 

Virtually all plants contain -mostly in their seeds- fats and oils, the fat content of which ranges from very small amounts to as high as 70%.

 

Vegetable oils and fats are divided into pulp oils and fats (e.g. palm and olive oil) and seed oils and fats (e.g. coconut, sunflower or soybean oil).

 

Fat-producing plants grow mainly along the Earth's sunbelt. Higher amounts of energy, derived from the sun through photosynthesis, are required for the biosynthesis of the fat.

 

Years of special cultivation have made it possible to successfully grow fat-producing plants, e.g. rapeseed and sunflower, on a much larger scale and in more moderate climates.

Fat and oil

 

Vegetable fat remains solid up to a temperature of around 20 ° C, whereas vegetable oils remain liquid even at lower temperatures.

 

Whether plants store oil or solid fat in their fruits and seeds depends on the composition of fatty acids, which largely determines the fat content.

 

In vegetable oil, the proportion of unsaturated fatty acids is high; in contrast, solid vegetable fats contain a higher percentage of saturated fatty acids.

Diversity

 

There are approximately 40 known plants worldwide that produce oil or fat suitable for human consumption. Edible fats are primarily produced these days from palm, soybean, sunflower, canola, and coconut oils.

The oil or fat of each plant is specific to its species, which is determined mainly by different levels of certain saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.

 

Because the fatty acid spectra of widely cultivated oilseeds only comprises the seven fatty acids (C12) lauric acid, (C14), myristic acid (C16) palmitic acids (C18) stearin (C18 - monounsaturated) oil (C18 - double unsaturated), linoleic (C18 – tri-unsaturated), and linolenic acid, oils differ very little.

Most vegetable oils predominantly contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Animal fats and oils, however, have a much higher percentage of saturated fatty acids.

 Energy

« Many would like to ignore the use of vegetable oils as fuel. Yet over time such products could become just as important as fossil fuel and petroleum products. »

 

Rudolf Diesel in 1912 in his patent application for the diesel motor

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