The process of extracting Palm Oil from Oil Palm Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFBs) is long established. It is done using broadly the same technique but with one of three different technologies.
Small Scale Processing Equipment (SSPE) bridges the gap between the local artisan and industrial scale technology. The POPMs manufactured and installed by WACAPOL fall into this category. It is simple durable technology designed specifically for the seasonal nature of the FFB crop and the socio-economic environment of West and Central Africa. The POPMs are designed to process between 1 mt and 4 mt FFB per hour and, subject to the age, type and quality of the FFB, achieve extraction ratios of 16% - 20% Palm Oil to FFB with extraction efficiencies of 86%-90%. They are modular in design with a single module representing 1 mt. It is therefore possible to increase processing capacity by adding additional lines of equipment or reduce throughput if necessary during the dry season by closing down lines of equipment.
Traditional local artisan methods using rural techniques that are primitive, labour intensive and highly inefficient . These methods produce negligible quantities of low quality and unstable Palm Oil with a limited shelf life. It is estimated that traditional methods on average yield about 4%-10% crude palm oil to FFB compared to 16% - 23% achieved by industrial and intermediate scale technologies. This means that 80% of the oil that could potentially be recovered is never recovered and therefore goes to waste.
Industrial Scale Palm Oil Processing Equipment (ISPE) ranging from 5 mt FFBs throughput per hour up to 120 mt FFBs throughput per hour. These mills typically are highly sophisticated in terms of technology and required infrastructure. Subject to an adequate supply of FFBs, They are designed to run 24 hours per day. They have their place in the industry particularly in Southeast Asia where the all year round yield of the Oil Palm means that the mills can be adequately serviced with a continuous supply of FFBs. There are industrial scale mills scattered throughout West and Central Africa but they are prone to breakdowns due to the harsh working environment and often cannot obtain sufficient FFBs to keep them operating to capacity during the dry season.
As the initial capital outlay is high it is difficult to make them cost effective. Traditionally, Oil Palm outgrowers have been encouraged to cultivate Oil Palms in Africa in the surrounding areas of the large plantations to help overcome the shortage of FFBs in the dry season. However this creates social issues in so far as these outgrowers have no means of processing their FFBs when the mills are fully supplied during the peak season. There are also significant environmental issues associated with industrial scale mills.
To learn more about the extraction process, please click here.