The oleochemical industry is more than one century old and was losing prestige ahead of advances in petrochemical face to economies of scale and relatively lower prices of oil derivatives, at least until the late 1970. With the growing concern for environmental preservation and the quest for sustainability in terms of raw materials and processes, the oleochemicalis requested by the tracks of the market in consumer products and thus begins to dispute some industrial applications. Within this context, the oleochemical encompasses the various processes of transformation of vegetable and/or animal products in high value-added and alternative biofuels to diesel oils fats. These materials are renewable, biodegradable and sources are shown in the form of diverse substrates and low cost. In general, esters, whose applications depend on the families of oil: lauric, oleic, ricinoleic, polyunsaturated, among others.
Brazil has one of the largest inventories of biodiversity. Its natural resources gradually become known as scientific research is intensified and the results are presented and available to society. Although, Brazil holds one of the largest germplasm banks in situ, it is noted by those who inhabit the different biomes a high demand for knowledge on sustainable use of biodiversity. The lack of domestication of natural resources such as medicinal, aromatic plants and holders of secondary metabolites with biodefensives properties has led to underutilization and extinction of countless species, imposing socioeconomic and environmental constraints. Moreover, the agricultural production of healthy food has been confronted with serious problems of contamination by toxins and the dependence of pesticide use. In this context, the term phytochemical encompasses survey and study of chemical components of plants used as active ingredients, flavors, dyes and molecules of the cell wall. Applications for these products may extend to diverse areas such as medical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food hygiene.
The expectation for decreasing oil reserves and rising costs for drilling allied to the increasing concern about environmental preservation technology solutions have been demanding immediate consumption needs. This move in the opposite direction to the exploitation of fossil sources of raw materials and breaks a global paradigm, kept for decades, which was the basis for the development of a whole industrial chain.
It is notorious that the fossil sources of raw material are present at all levels of any supply chain, since its operation, primarily for energy purposes, was the basis for the development of industrial society. Therefore, the behavior of the economy has become extremely sensitive to any change in mind their quality, price or demand.
Significant increases in oil prices have enabled the use of some alternative sources, which before had no economic competitiveness. It is noteworthy to highlight that the global bioenergy is gaining due to high prices recently hit by a barrel of oil. The successful implementation of ethanol in the Brazilian energy matrix has been an example for the development of new energy policies.
The "oleochemicals" theme comprises processes of transformation of vegetable oils and animal fats in products with high added value. Also includes the new processes that are the subject of research and development projects, D&I in consequence of the use of raw materials oilseeds as sources of biodiesel. These raw materials are essentially ES methyl and ethyl esters of fatty acids used as a substitute for fuel used in diesel engines. Several countries already include these derivatives in its energy matrix.
The main oleochemical are derived from fatty acids, fatty nitrogenous compounds, fatty alcohols and glycerol, as shown in Figure below. Glycerol, being the principal co-product of the transesterification used in biodiesel production and produced on a large scale, has received special attention.
Vegetable oils and animal fats found in nature are composed of acidic triacylglycerols of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids and glycerol. Have the general formula: ROOCCH²-CH (OOCR') - CH²OOCR" wherein R, R' and R" are alkyl or alkenyl groups. Generally there is more than one fatty acid triglyceride present and considered mixed. The main fatty acids found in vegetable oils and animal fats are identified in the Table below.