Fatty acid pumps

for oleochemistry

Oleochemistry works sustainably and extracts products such as fatty acids, fatty alcohols, methyl esters or glycerine from animal or vegetable fats. These in turn are important starting materials for many everyday products. The scarcity of fossil fuels and the growing world population make oleochemistry an important technology.

Efficient production processes require reliable and powerful fatty acid pumps. Modern plunger pumps meet these requirements and represent ideal solutions.

Basics and history of oleochemistry

Oleochemistry is one of the oldest chemical processes used by humans. The principle of saponification was already known in ancient times. As a result, animal or vegetable oils and fats were no longer only an important component of human food, but also the starting material for useful products. Oils and fats were used as fuels in oil lamps very early on.

Oleochemistry is basically concerned with vegetable and animal fats and their derivatives. It is considered a sustainable technology because it uses renewable raw materials for the most part. Modern oleochemistry originated at the beginning of the 19th century. This was the first time that chemical reactions and properties were systematically investigated. Over the past decades, oleochemicals have steadily gained in importance due to the growing world population and dwindling fossil fuels.

Processes in oleochemistry

The starting materials of oleochemistry are renewable raw materials such as vegetable oils such as rapeseed oil, soybean oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil or sunflower oil. Chemically, these are compounds of fatty acids and glycerine. The first process step in oleochemistry is fat separation. It separates the fatty acid phase from the glycerol phase, usually by high-pressure lipolysis. It is considered a very gentle and environmentally friendly process without additional chemicals or catalysts.

The next process steps process the raw glycerine obtained into a pure glycerine distillate. Processes such as saponification, fractionation, transesterification, distillation or hydrogenation are used for the further processing of raw fatty acids. Companies active in the field of oleochemistry use fatty acid pumps in the various process steps for pumping media.

The fatty acid pumps used in oleochemistry must meet high requirements, because media to be pumped, such as fatty acids, are corrosive. Strict environmental and safety specifications apply to the various process steps. Pumps used in the further processing of fatty acids must often be explosion-proof.

Another challenge for the fatty acid pumps is the hard 24-hour continuous operation of the process-technical systems. Downtimes or maintenance work on the pumps immediately lead to production downtimes and economic losses. The pumps often operate over several decades and only limited service windows are available for maintenance work at certain times.

Many oleochemical media to be pumped are aggressive and have high temperatures. This must be taken into account when designing the process pumps. The materials and assembly groups coming into contact with the media must be designed accordingly.

Plunger pumps are ideal solutions for fatty acid pumps in oleochemistry. They can be dimensioned conservatively in terms of speed and load. The specific loads of the moving parts are low for both the pump drive and the liquid end. This results in minimum wear, low durability and a long service life.

The pumping capacity of the plunger pumps can be easily regulated by setting the speed. Frequency-controlled drives ensure optimum speeds and maximum pump efficiency. The plunger pumps are able to supply the required operating pressures and flow rates of the various process stages in the further processing of fatty acids. In some cases, pressures up to 300 bar and flow rates of 600 l/min are required. The plunger pumps can also handle the high temperatures of the media of up to 280 °C with ease.

Fatty acid pump applications

The end products supplied by oleochemicals with their fatty acid pumps are mainly glycerine, methyl esters, fatty acids and fatty alcohols. These end products in turn are the starting materials for many different everyday products.

They can be used for foodstuffs such as margarine or for cleaning agents such as soaps. They are also the starting materials for cosmetics or skin care products. For example, surfactants (sodium lauryl sulfate) can be obtained from the fatty acid lauric acid as important ingredients of many skin care products.

Other areas of application are the production of solvents, lubrication oils and biopolymers or copolymers for the plastics and coatings sector.

Biodiesel production uses the transesterification of methanol to produce the fuel.

Demand for products made from renewable raw materials will continue to rise. URACA supplies the necessary pump technology for ever-more significant field of oleochemistry. URACA has more than 50 years of experience in this field. The robust and durable pumps prove themselves in daily use worldwide.

If you are planning a new concept or modernization of an oleochemical system, URACA is the perfect partner for you. Find out now about suitable products and contact the pump experts for further advice.