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What percentage of total world production of palm oil is used for fuel, and what is used for food and cosmetics?

I am asking this because there seems to be more awareness in the media of palm oil use for food and cosmetics than for fuel. I suspect biggest use is for fuel?

  • Some palm oil is used in processed foods & snacks, such as lower quality chocolate – Fred May 11 '16 at 14:59
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Take a look at this report: "Palm oil-based biofuels and sustainability in southeast Asia: A review of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand". It's behind the ScienceDirect paywall so you may not have full access.

They give two tables, one for palm oil production, and one for biodiesel production, for the three largest producers of palm oil in the world. Total world production was 52.1 million tons in 2012, and Indonesia and Malaysia accounted for 85% of this (originally sourced from palmoilresearch[dot]org, however that link now goes to a spam site).

I combined the two tables to look at share of biodiesel produced as a percentage of palm oil production:

                   2005    2006    2007    2008    2009    2010    2011
Indonesia
Total oil        15,560  16,600  18,000  20,500  21,000  23,600  25,400 kilotons
Biodiesel             0      21      31      98     311     405     578 kilotons
Share              0.0%    0.1%    0.2%    0.5%    1.5%    1.7%    2.3%
Malaysia
Total oil        15,485  15,290  17,567  17,259  17,763  18,211  18,300 kilotons
Biodiesel             0      55     130     230     227      95     200 kilotons
Share              0.0%    0.4%    0.7%    1.3%    1.3%    0.5%    1.1%
Thailand
Total oil           784   1,170   1,050   1,540   1,345   1,288   1,546 kilotons
Biodiesel             0       0      60     385     482     516     538 kilotons
Share              0.0%    0.0%    5.7%   25.0%   35.8%   40.1%   34.8%
COMBINED
Total oil        31,829  33,060  36,617  39,299  40,108  43,099  45,246 kilotons
Biodiesel             0      76     221     713   1,020   1,016   1,316 kilotons
Share              0.0%    0.2%    0.6%    1.8%    2.5%    2.4%    2.9%

As you can see, from 84% of the world's palm oil, only 2.9% is used for biodiesel production.

Of course, it's possible (but not likely) that someone is buying raw palm oil and converting it to biodiesel on their own, but I don't think the economics of this would favor anyone.

A follow-up question - why did you suspect that fuel would be the biggest end-use? Or are you thinking of other types of fuel than biodiesel? Perhaps cooking fuel, or lighting (candles)?

  • Thank you, I am surprised. I suspected fuel would be higher because a car costumes a lot more energy than a human. But I guess that palm biodiesel is not as ubiquitous as palm oil in food and cosmetics. It would be interesting to see more recent data, because the share of biodiesel is increasing. – John Spence May 11 '16 at 8:33

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