Palm oil and its byproducts are used in a wide variety of industries and products, including foods, pharmaceuticals, personal care, energy, agriculture, as well as in the production of oleochemicals. Extracting and refining oil from palm trees and fruits is a complex, multi-step process which can be generalized into three categories: upstream, midstream, and downstream processes. Upstream processes involve milling the palm and extracting the crude palm oil (CPO), as well as monitoring the environment where the trees are grown (i.e. soil, water, and fertilizer). The downstream processes focus on converting the midstream processes into final products for consumer and industrial use.
During the midstream refining process, the CPO, intermediates, and final products must be monitored for quality. Critical elements which must be monitored are phosphorus, iron, copper, and nickel, which are oxidizing agents that turn the oil rancid. Therefore, the concentration of these elements must be controlled – knowing these concentrations in the CPO is crucial for determining the refining parameters required to remove them. Plus, mineral content (calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium) must also be monitored for product labelling.
This work describes the multi-elemental analysis of palm oil in the midstream refining processes using the Avio® 220 Max hybrid simultaneous ICP-OES, a unique solution ideally suited to the palm oil industry, focusing on elements which contribute to rancidity and overall quality of the refined palm oil.