Biobased Surfactants: An Expanding Product Sector Ripe for Opportunities for Oil Palm
Hayes, D. G.  2019.  International Palm Oil Congress (PIPOC), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 19-21 November 2019 (an extended abstract was prepared).  (invited)

Surfactants and detergents are major products in today’s world (36.5 billion USD / 20.9 million metric tons), being employed in laundry and personal care products, pharmaceuticals, foods, paints and coatings, and other industries. Biobased surfactants, i.e., surfactants derived mainly from renewable resources, are receiving increased attention, accounting for 27.5% of the overall surfactants market, with the greatest growth occurring in Asia. One of the major trends causing the growth is the increased interest in sustainability by consumers and manufacturers. I will provide an overview of biobased surfactants and discuss several aspects pertaining to their sustainability. I will also discuss feedstocks for biobased surfactants. Malaysia is a major global supplier of feedstocks, particularly palm kernel oil and palm stearine for non-food applications and palm oil for foods. But, algal oils are an emerging competitor. In addition, several feedstocks for the hydrophilic component of the surfactants are also derived from oil palm: glycerol, amino acids, sugars and their derivatives. Finally, I will give several examples of currently used biobased surfactants as well as recent developments in the synthesis and development.