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Selective hydrogenation of fats and oils

Partial hydrogenation, or hardening, of vegetable oil is one of the most important processes in the fatty oil industry, particularly in the production of edible fat products. The project was studied the possibility of: increasing the controllability and predictability of the product composition obtained with nickel catalysed hardening; the development of new techniques to reduce the formation of undesired trans isomers in edible oils; achieving substantially lower amounts of trans isomers in the hardening of rapeseed oils. A detailed and fundamental scientific investigation into the reaction kinetics of the nickel catalysed partial hydrogenation was completed.

Considerable effort was spent on the following: preparation of a large number of specific fatty components; development of new, highly sophisticated analytical techniques; design and construction of various experimental set-ups. To investigate the possibilities of improving selectivity in the formation of trans isomers, 150 new types of metal catalysts for partial hydrogenation were prepared and tested. A specific new catalyst was tested in the production of hydrogenated fat from rapeseed oils. The observed amounts of trans isomers in the hydrogenation of rapeseed oils with the new catalyst were significantly lower (>4 times) than those obtained with the traditional nickel catalyst while also achieving at least similar linoleate selectivities and much higher activities. The performance of monolith catalyst reactors in the selective hydrogenation of oils was extensively tested. Very promising results were obtained from monoliths impregnated with a specific type of catalyst, in that a simple procedure was developed, resulted in complete regeneration of this catalyst after sulphur poisoning as well as long-term deactivation due to coke formation.

Reported by

University of Groningen
Nijenbergh 4
9747 AG Groningen
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