The oil palm, also known as Elaeis guineensis, is an indigenous African tree of the palm family that is cultivated as a source of oil.
Where does the oil palm grow?
Oil palm is mostly cultivated in West and Central Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. Edo State, Nigeria, is a suitable area for growing oil palm, hence the location of Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC in this region of the country.
Oil palm cultivation
The oil palm seeds developed and sold by specialist seed companies are planted in a nursery. The young oil palms grow there for a period of about 1 – 2 months before they are transplanted into the field. After 30 months of growth, fruit harvesting starts and continues for more than 22 years. By this time, the palm has reached a height of about 12-15 meters, with decreasing yields in addition to being too tall to be harvested economically. Fruit harvesting is done throughout the year. Oil palm harvesting is very labor intensive as it still involves little mechanization, and thus represents a huge source of direct employment for the local population. The harvested fruits are transported to the oil mill with the aim of ensuring that they are all processed within 24 hours of harvesting.
Palm oil extraction
When the fresh fruit bunches (FFB) arrive at the mill, they are sterilized under steam, facilitating the detachment of the fruits, preventing the oil from acidifying, and preconditioning the fruit pericarp & nuts for subsequent processing. The bunches are then placed in a rotating drum (stripper) to separate the fruits from the bunches. Before pressing, a mechanical and thermal mixing process prepares the fruits. During pressing, the crude oil is extracted, the fibers and shells are put aside and will be used to produce energy or as organic fertilizers. The last step, the clarification, separates the crude oil from the rest of the juice by decanting to obtain a pure crude palm oil (CPO).
A circular production method
Palm oil production is a circular production method where each step of the cycle is optimized. Hence, the residual fibers and shells from the production process fuel the biomass boilers. The steam produced by these boilers enters a turbine that generates electricity for the factory. The rest of the steam is redistributed and provides the heat needed for the entire process. Palm oil mills are thus energy self-sufficient as they produce renewable energy.
The organic residues from the processing of the bunches are returned to the field and used as organic fertilizers.
At the end of the year 2020, the total FFB delivered and processed at the mill of Okomu was 228 166 tons, of which 214 317 tons came from Okomu’s plantation and 14 957 tons came from third parties.