Palm kernel oil is a co-product of palm oil production. The production ratio is 1/0.11 palm oil to PKO. Attempts are being made to increase palm oil and PKO production as world demand insreases, by improving plantation practices, extraction methods and introducing new varieties of palms that can produce either more liquid palm oil and/or more PKO. PS1 is a new variety of oil palm introduced to the Malaysian industry to increase the yield of liquid while PS3 was introduced to increase the yield of PKO to as high as 30%.
Besides C12 & C14 fatty acids, PKO contain other fatty acids including C8, C10, C16, C18 and C18:1. In processing, the oleochemicals industry in Malaysia usually splits the PKO, removes (strips) the C10 and lower acids, and distills off the C12-C14 acids, leaving a by-product which contains C16, C18 and C18:1. The by-product is usually fractionated to yield C16-C18 and C18:1 fractions. These fractions fetch lower prices compared to the C12-C14 fractions. Among the two lower value fractions, the C18:1 or crude oleic acid fraction offers interesting possibilities because it has a degree of unsaturation which provideds a site for further chemical modifications. One possible chemical modification is to convert the unsaturated bond to an epoxide, the hydrolyse to yield 9,10-dihydroxystearic acid.