There are two processes by which fatty alcohols are produced – one which is an oleochemical process based on natural oils, and the other is a synthetic process. The natural oils used are mainly palm oil and palm kernel oils, but coconut oil and other natural vegetable oils may be used. In the synthetic route, an ethylene feestock is used by one producer and natural gas is used by the other.
In southeast Asia, natural or vegetable oils such as palm kernel oil (PKO) and coconut oil (CNO) are used as the main raw material for fatty alcohol production. In the oleochemical production process glycerine is a co-product. No glycerine is produced in the synthetic process.
Fatty alcohol is reacted with fatty acids to manufacture esters, which are used in cosmetics, soaps and detergents. Ethylene oxide can be reacted with fatty alcohols to manufacture surfactant cleaning agents. The major end markets for fatty alcohols are soaps and detergents, cosmetics, wood preservatives and personal care products. Fatty alcohols are not considered toxic.
To find out more about Fatty Alcohols Methodology March 2013