April 6, 2017

In parallel with drinktec 2017

Specialist trade fair oils+fats presents solutions for the oils and fats industry

Taking place in parallel with drinktec, between September 11 and 15, 2017, is oils+fats, Europe´s only specialist trade fair for the production and processing of vegetable oils and animal fats. Leading international suppliers of systems, equipment and components will be showcasing their offerings in this segment in a part of Hall C1. Other key themes at oils+fats are raw and auxiliary materials and solutions for process and quality control. One key benefit for all ticket-holders for oils+fats 2017 is free entry to drinktec 2017, the “World´s Leading Trade Fair for the Beverage and Liquid Food Industry”, and to SIMEI, a wine technology trade fair integrated into drinktec. The same benefit applies in reverse to ticket-holders for drinktec and SIMEI. This cross-over aspect is very interesting because beverage and liquid food producers often use similar technologies and packaging to that used in the oils and fats industry.

Throughout the business of extracting and processing edible oils and fats there has for years been an ongoing search for alternatives to the familiar and traditional animal-based fats such as lard and butter. Both these products have a long history as ingredients in the food industry. The cholesterol debate, which was highly emotional and very prominent in the media, changed perspectives. From then on, margarine was the product of choice, because of the global battle against cholesterol. This remained so up until the time trans fats were identified in margarine. Trans fats arose as a result of the necessary hardening of vegetable oils, because the idea for margarine was that it should be spreadable and not liquid. These trans fats were associated in the public mind with many negative characteristics, with accusations that they were carcinogenic and promoted obesity. The producers managed to solve the trans fats challenge by optimizing their margarine production, but in the end it was again a case of: Once your public reputation is ruined, then the road back is long and stony. Then along came palm oil, which today is literally everywhere in the industry.

Palm oil: No paradise is perfect
Palm oils are extracted from the fruit of the oil palm tree. They are purely vegetable and yet are by nature of a hard consistency in ambient temperatures here, so they do not have to be hardened. As a result trans fats play no role. In addition palm oil is much cheaper than other oils. So it is not surprising that today palm oil is the most important vegetable oil, accounting for 30 percent of the market share, ahead of soybean oil. Around two-thirds of this is found in ready-made foods where this fat is valued for its creamy consistency, storage stability and its heat resistance.

But no paradise is perfect: Palm oil first attracted criticism in the media because rainforests were being cleared to grow oil palms. Then gazettes started warning about so-called process contaminants in foods that contained refined palm oil. These were glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE) and 3-monochloropropanediol (3-MCPD) and 2-monochloropropanediol (2-MCPD) and their fatty acid esters. All of these are substances can occur in foods with other strongly heated vegetable oils and fats as an ingredient, for which no objective and full risk analysis has been completed.

Food Safety Forum
oils+fats is dedicating a forum to this theme. In the “Food Safety Forum” experts will be addressing the subject of “Food safety in oils: present situation and solutions to analyze and mitigate the formation of 3-MCPD and GE in food oils”. Marc Kellens, Global Technical Director at desmet ballestra and the organizer of the forum, describes the problem as follows: “With the palm oil industry making huge efforts since early 2000 to make palm oil more and more sustainable, today it has to deal with another more food-safety-related issue, which will require an even more stringent control of the whole supply chain. It is up to the various players, palm-oil producers, processors and consumers, to turn this problem into an opportunity by increasing the palm-oil quality standards, from the oil-palm plantation to the palm-oil application.” The most important representatives of the palm-oil industry have already committed to taking part in this forum. They include: MPOB (Malaysian Palm Oil Board), FEDIOL (the EU vegetable oil and proteinmeal industry association) and MPOCC (Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council).

Animal fats and biofuels poised for a renaissance?
“How do you measure unwanted substances, and how do you remove them? Or rather: How do I prevent them from being formed in the first place? That is currently a hot topic of discussion,” says Klaus-Peter Eickhoff from the oils+fats exhibitor, GEA Group. It is a debate that, according to Eickhoff, is already leaving traces in the market. “At the moment in Europe production facilities are being built again to chemically refine palm oil because in this process contaminants do not occur. That was not the case in the past.” Chemical refining is namely not really the process which the industry prefers. For it is more expensive than thermal refining, it has greater losses and produces ancillary products that have to be disposed of. At the same time there are tentative signs of a renaissance in animal fats for food. Klaus-Peter Eickhoff explains: “We have at the moment two major projects on this in Europe. That has not been the case over the last 10 to 15 years.” Will palm oil be replaced again by animal fats in some foods, is the industry returning to its roots? Indeed much is indicating this, after all nowadays the debate about cholesterol is not so narrowly focused.

Dr. Edgar Remmele from TFZ (Technologie- und Förderzentrum im Kompetenzzentrum für Nachwachsende Rohstoffe), a technology and support center for renewable resources in Straubing, Germany, hopes this kind of more rational assessment can be applied to another “hot potato” at oils+fats: “In the production of a biofuel based on rapeseed, around two-thirds of the processed mass is protein foodstuffs. When you consider that this by-product replaces soybean meal imports on the world market, then the climate-protection effect of biofuels based on rapeseed should be rated much more highly than is the case in a generally purely energy-based assessment.”

Greenhouse gas savings quota is stirring up the market
The key question is therefore: How big is then the eco footprint of a biofuel based on vegetable oils? This is a parameter that in view of changing policies is gaining ground again – and at oils+fats it could enliven the segment: For the mineral-oil industry has to achieve a precisely defined reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and it has to do this starting with the field upon which the oil palm grows through to the gas station. Previously it was sufficient to replace a defined percentage from the mineral-oil market in energy terms by a biofuel.

“Because of the new greenhouse gas savings quota there is now the incentive to further optimize palm-oil plantations, but above all also oil-extraction and biofuel plants, in order to reduce greenhouse gas production along the entire production process. For this means that the bio-fuel producers can achieve higher prices for biofuels with high greenhouse-gas-reduction potential, as the mineral-oil industry does not need to buy as much biofuel in, in order to meet their savings targets,” concludes Dr. Remmele. Behind all this of course is the great popularity of biofuels made from used fats and oils. These have a very high savings quota because, as they derive from residual or waste materials, they have zero effect in the overall greenhouse-gas emission calculations.

Back to self-sufficiency in biofuels?
As well as the reform already taking hold, there are other medium-term factors that speak for rising demand for biofuels. Worldwide more and more states are planning and setting out time plans for an admixture of these fuels. And in the political climate-protection plans specific cross-sector greenhouse-gas reduction obligations are announced through to 2050. Also, for example, for agriculture and forestry, for which a return to “self-sufficiency” is particularly interesting. Dr. Remmele explains: “On the one hand this results in greenhouse-gas savings of over 80 percent in comparison to diesel fuel. Secondly, biofuel is biodegradable and is not declared as water-contaminating. Accidents involving biofuel in environmentally sensitive waters, or in agricultural areas, generally pose no threat to the environment. Not least in the production of the fuel, valuable protein feedstuffs can be extracted and new added value created for rural regions.” Here, too, there are clear signals on the supply side that this scenario is now no longer just a vision for the future. Some of the world´s biggest agricultural machinery manufacturers are already offering vegetable-oil-compatible tractors on the German market—compliant with the required rigorous emissions standards and with a full guarantee and servicing. The market for edible oils, fats and lubricants and fuels is exciting and it continues to be so. All the more important therefore is a truly specialist trade fair which covers the entire production chain and which also presents innovations and new perspectives in the sector and gives an opportunity to discuss these—that is oils+fats 2017.