The vital process of edible oil production from soybean seeds helps cater to the global demand for cooking oils. With its versatility and numerous benefits, the culinary superstar soybean oil has become a staple in kitchens.

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It is scientifically called Glycine max and contains about 18% oil and 35% protein. Both of these products have huge demand in human foods. This has created the need to separate them and has led to the development of the soybean-crushing industry.

In this step-by-step guide, we will cover the entire soybean oil extraction process. Whether you are a soybean oil producer or are planning to start an edible oil-producing plant, get ready to dive into the captivating world of soybean oil production.

History of Soybean Oil Production

In the early 1940s, soybean oil was considered the biggest problem of the soybean industry. It was neither regarded as an excellent edible oil nor as a good oil for industrial paint. The crop was first known to be cultivated in China, which slowly immigrated to the rest of the world.

Earlier, soybean was grown as a forage crop or a cover crop, but the scenario changed tremendously by the 1980s. This was when soybean oil became the primary source of edible oil.

The table below throws light on the timeline of soybean oil production

Time / Year Events
11th century B.C. The eastern half of North China witnessed the domestication of soybean production
1712 A German botanist's writing spread awareness regarding soybeans among Europeans
1740 Chinese Missionaries sent soybean seeds to France
1804 The word "Soybean" was used for the first time in the U.S.
1879 New Jersey's Rutgers Agricultural College published a soybean testing
1891 Import of soybean cake started in Japan to be used as fertilizer
1908 Soybeans became popular worldwide, followed by shipments to Europe
1920's U.S. Corn Belt had expanded Soybean acreage
Before Second World War The need for soybean meal and oil increased due to interrupted trade routes in the U.S.
After Second World War Production of soybeans expanded from the southern part of the United States.
1950-70's The U.S. accounted for more than 75% of global soybean production
1970's Production of soybean started at a large scale in many South American countries
2003 The share of the U.S. in global soybean production came down to 34%
2014 U.S.'s share in global soybean production remained at 34%, with Brazil following at 30%

The industries that process soybeans to produce soy oil and soybean meal are called processing or crushing industries. Oil from the soybeans can be removed by any one of the two oil extraction methods. The first method involves crushing the beans into thin flakes and then employing a solvent extraction method, while in the second one, flakes are pressed out mechanically.

The mechanical pressing method to remove oil was common until the early 1900s. After this, the solvent extraction plants began to prevail, especially in Europe, because of their greater effectiveness in soy oil removal. As a result, more than 90% of the world's soy oil was solvent extracted by 1970.

Global Soybean Oil Consumption

The worldwide demand for edible oils is projected to reach approximately 87 million metric tons by 2026. China ranks at the top as the biggest consumer of soybean oil in the year 2022. The country has consumed around 17.8 million metric tons of this edible oil this year. The U.S. grabbed the second spot in this list with its annual soybean oil consumption of 11.6 million metric tons.

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The Global Soybean Oil Market is flourishing with remarkable growth, surging ahead at an impressive rate of 4% over the forecast period (2023-2029). The edible oil's market size is anticipated to reach USD 1.251.31 Bn by the end of this period with the Asia Pacific region dominating it.

This remarkable ascent is evidence for the rising demand and the positive outlook for soybean oil's versatile applications across different industries. That said, sustainable agriculture practices and increasing health awareness are sure to give this industry a great boost.

Global Soybean Oil Production

According to the United States Department of Agriculture's report released in 2023, China is currently the biggest producer of soybean oil, producing around 17 million metric tonnes of it in 2022. The country is followed by the U.S., Brazil, and Argentina in the second, third, and fourth spots in soybean oil production ranking.

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During 2021 and 2022, China held its position as the top producer of soybean oil, boasting an impressive production volume of approximately 15.68 million metric tons.

How Soybean Oil is Produced in a Soybean Oil Refinery?

If you are wondering how soybean oil is made, unlock the secrets of soybean oil production step by step with our brief guide. Before discussing the different stages involved in the soybean oil's production process in detail, let's have a quick look over the diagram explaining the entire process.

Preparation

First comes the preparatory section in the soybean oil manufacturing process. It marks the initial stage where raw soybeans are processed to make them ready for oil extraction.

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Cleaning

Upon arrival at an oil mill, seeds often contain various foreign materials acquired during harvesting or transportation. The soybeans are thus cleaned first and the goal is to ensure that they are free from stones, dust, dirt, and other undesirable particles. This crucial process, not only enhances oil yield but also reduces wear and tear on oil processing machinery.

How you handle seed cleaning significantly influences the entire operation, affecting the yield, quality, and value of your oil, ultimately impacting your profits and losses. Neglecting this crucial step could lead to substantial increases in operating costs and reduced returns, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.

Destoning

The destoning process utilizes a density cum gravity separator with an aspiration system. It aims to improve the purity and quality of oil-bearing seeds by effectively eliminating stones the same size as soybean seeds.

The process is crucial to enhance the purity and quality of the soybeans, resulting in a superior end product suitable for oil extraction.

Cracking and Dehulling

Preparing soybean oil involves cracking and dehulling, where soybeans are cracked open to break into smaller pieces.

Once cracked, the outer hulls are carefully removed with the help of a machine called a Dehuller. It results in the revealing of the cotyledons, which are the embryonic seed leaves of the soybean.

Flaking

The next step in the soybean oil extraction process is flaking. Here, the cotyledons are flattened into flakes or rolled. This enhances the surface area, facilitating the extraction of soybean oil.

Cooking

The flakes, thus obtained after the flaking process, are carefully heated to an optimal temperature. It prepares them for oil extraction while neutralizing any enzymes that may have caused the deterioration of the oil.

To accomplish this, the oilseeds are placed in a vapor-tight cooker. This conditions them to the required temperature.

Cooking breaks oil cells and eliminates moisture as steam. This aids in lowering the oil's viscosity while facilitating the oil separation during the extraction process.

Expanding

The expanding process involves heating the cleaned soybeans to facilitate soybean oil extraction. This can be achieved through mechanical pressing or by using solvents like hexane. Mechanical pressing involves physically pressing the soybeans to release the oil, while solvent extraction is a more efficient method for large-scale production.

Drying and Cooling

After expanding, the soybean flakes are drying to reduce their moisture content. This essential step enhances the efficiency of the subsequent oil extraction process and improves the overall quality of the extracted oil.

After drying, the soybean flakes are cooled to an appropriate temperature before proceeding with the next processing stages. This cooling step plays a crucial role in preserving the oil's integrity and ensuring the high quality of the final product by preventing degradation

Extraction

Once the soybean seeds undergo the preparatory section processes, they are moved to the solvent extraction plant. The solvent extraction process is a common method used for soybean oil extraction. The aim is to use a solvent for dissolving a target solute, and wash it out of the solid plant component. The processes involved at this stage are provided below.

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Main Extraction

Soybeans are first cleaned and cracked. This reduces their size and creates maximum surface area for oil extraction. Next, the oil content is dissolved by treating the cracked soybeans with a solvent like hexane. The mixture thus obtained is called miscella and it has oil and solvent along with other impurities.

Desolventizing

The next step in the oil extraction process involves removing the solvent from miscella using the method called desolventizing. During this process, the miscella is heated in an evaporator. It vaporizes the solvent, thus separating it from other components. The vapors of the solvent are later condensed and gathered for reuse.

Distillation

Next to desolventizing, there comes the turn of distillation. Distillation is a process that utilizes heat to separate various components of the oil based on their distinct boiling points. The process results in high-quality soybean oil by eliminating any remaining volatile substances and impurities.

Solvent Recovery

Solvent recovery is a significant step in the soybean oil production process. It is carried out to recover and reuse the solvent used in extraction. This sustainable practice not only lessens waste but also ensures environmental-friendliness and cost-effectiveness by reducing fresh solvent requirement.


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Refining

Refining plays a key role in the manufacturing of edible oils like soybean oil. Its chief purpose is to eliminate impurities, volatile substances, and unwanted components from the crude oil. Refining thus results in the production of a high-quality, stable edible oil that is perfectly safe to consume. The refining stage involves the following processes:

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Water Degumming

Water Degumming is the first part of the refining process. It involves the treatment of crude soybean oil with water to make it free from gums, phospholipids, and other impurities. These unwanted components form emulsions with water which you can separate through mechanical means like centrifugation, producing degummed oil.

Neutralization/washing

After degumming, the oil undergoes neutralization. In this process, an alkaline solution like sodium hydroxide is utilized to eliminate acidic impurities and free fatty acids. This step stabilizes the soybean oil by adjusting its pH level. Besides, the process also facilitates the removal of any leftover soap or other impurities by water washing.

Bleaching

In the refining process, you cannot undermine the role of bleaching. The process successfully removes trace metals, color pigments, and other impurities from the oil. For this, the oil is added to an adsorbent material like activated carbon or activated clay, which absorbs these impurities. Filtration then yields a lighter colored oil that is free from any unwanted substances.

Deodorization

Deodorization is the final stage of soybean oil refining. Here, the oil is heated under vacuum to remove any volatile compounds and lingering odor. Steam is used to take away these undesirable components, resulting in a odorless and clean product, which is suitable for consumption.

It must be acknowledged that the refining process may vary depending upon the oil-specific needs. There may be some variations or addition of certain steps to cope up with the market specific demands or regulations. That said, to ensure the production of premium-quality, safe edible oil, strict quality control also needs to be maintained throughout the process.

Refining marks the completion of the soybean oil production process making the oil fit for different food processing and culinary uses. It also aids in providing an extended shelf life to the edible oil.

Ways to Improve and Optimize the Soybean Oil Production

Soybean oil manufacturers constantly seek ways to enhance their yield, as it significantly impacts the sales volume for edible oil refinery plant manufacturers. To achieve this goal, maximizing the yield of soybean oil is a primary focus and concern for every producer. Let's briefly discuss some of the ways by which this can be done.

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Selection of superior soybean oil press equipment

Top-notch equipment directly impacts oil yield and quality. Studies reveal that with the same seed quality, a foremost soybean pressing machine can boost oil yield by 2-3%. It may appear small, but the cumulative effect is significant, especially for large-scale soybean oil manufacturers.

Moreover, premium equipment offers a longer service life compared to subpar alternatives.

So, choosing the right edible oil plant manufacturers is a crucial step in obtaining maximum efficiency and returns.

Thorough removal of impurities

For effective soybean pretreatment, meticulous attention should be given to every detail.

It is crucial to thoroughly remove sand, mud, straw, and any other impurities from the grains during the air-drying procedure.

Intensive sorting of soybeans

The key factor to ensure high and good quality soybean oil yield is selecting refined, clean soybeans without breakage or mildew during sorting.

Prevention of clogged oil lines

Given the high oil content of soybeans, the pressing process may encounter issues with clogged oil lines.

To mitigate this concern, a practical solution involves incorporating a small amount of cake into the seeds.

It will serve as a natural buffer, regulating the oil press's speed and optimizing the extraction process, ultimately improving soybean oil yield.

Control of Furnace's temperature

When the soybeans reach a medium level of doneness during the steam frying operation, open the top of the stove mouth and seal the wind gap of the lower part to manage the fire.

This precaution prevents excessive frying, ensuring the soybeans retain their oil quality and desired taste without adverse effects.

These are some effective ways to benefit soybean oil producers significantly.


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Facts You Should Know About Soybean

Owing to its numerous health benefits, soybean is one of the most preferred foods in the world.

Besides offering a healthy edible oil alternative, it has been used in various industries for ages.

Nutritional Value

Soybeans are rich in a wide range of nutrients. Let's see the amount of some of its components with the help of the following table.

Nutrients Quantity
Water 8.54 g
Protein 36.5 g
Fibre 9.3 g
Carbohydrate 30.2 g
Sugar 7.33 g
Total Lipid (fat) 19.9 g
Iron 15.7 mg
Calcium 277 mg
Phosphorus 704 mg
Magnesium 280 mg
Potassium 1800 mg
Vitamin C 6 mg
Sodium 2 mg

Both vegans and vegetarians can enjoy soybean as a go-to protein source, and soybean oil is one of its widely used derivatives.

Properties and Uses

Soybean oil exhibits anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which makes it suitable for various purposes.

The primary industries which employ soybean oil are listed below:

Cosmetics

Soybean oil is a highly beneficial ingredient found in cosmetics. Its properties aid in cell renewal and shield skin cells, effectively combating signs of aging. Additionally, it serves as an excellent moisturizer, leaving the skin feeling smooth and supple.

Food and beverages

Soybean oil has numerous uses in the food industry. Apart from being used as a cooking oil, it is used in salad dressings, preparing sauces, smooth fillings, and icings, and also as an emulsifying agent.

Soaps and shampoos

Soybean oil is commonly incorporated into soap-making as one of several oils. It contributes to a rich, creamy lather, although when used alone, the resulting soap can be relatively soft. The oil is also used in preparing shampoos as it aids in hair-strengthening.

Lubricants and bio-diesel

Soy-based biodiesel offers a significant advantage by enhancing engine lubricity, resulting in prolonged engine life due to reduced wear over many years. Additionally, its use does not require any modifications to the engine, making it a convenient and effective fuel option.

Besides these, soybean oil also finds significant uses in industries that manufacture plastics, paints, eco-friendly pesticides, and fungicides.

Benefits of Soybean oil

Being incredibly versatile, soybean oil finds its uses in several cooking methods, like baking, roasting, and frying.

Let's see some of the fantastic benefits that this edible oil offers.

Versatile and Easy to use

Owing to a high smoking point, soybean oil can easily replace any other vegetable oil in your kitchen. It suits high-heat cooking methods like sauteing, roasting, or frying.

You can pair it with a dash of pepper and salt, and vinegar for a quick salad dressing. Soybean oil's neutral, mild taste makes it fit for any soybean oil recipe.

Improves skin health

Soybean oil contains vitamin E, which is known to treat many skin diseases and provide protection against skin damage.

Researchers have proven the effectiveness of this edible oil in protecting skin inflammation resulting from ultraviolet radiation. For this good reason, it has taken its place in various skin care products.

Promotes bone health

Including just one tablespoon of soybean oil in your meal can fulfill around 20% of the recommended daily requirement of vitamin K in your body. This is because only 15 mL contains approximately 25 mcg of vitamin K.

The vitamin not only plays a crucial role in regulating bone metabolism but is also known for its effectiveness in blood clotting.

Lowers risk of heart disease

Soybean oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids known to protect against heart disease, besides helping in reducing inflammation.

Apart from this, edible oil mainly contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, considered heart-healthy fats, and helps lower the risk of heart disease. So, including soybean oil in your diet can help keep your cholesterol levels in check.

Precautions You Should Consider

Each serving of soybean oil has a decent amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Although soybean oil is beneficial and contains both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, it's essential to be mindful of its higher proportion of omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3s.

An imbalance in these fatty acids may lead to chronic disease and inflammation. To maintain a balanced diet, it's recommended to complement soybean oil with other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, flax seeds, salmon, and walnuts.

That said, pregnant women and people with soy allergies should be cautious before consuming soybean oil meals.

Conclusion

We've explored the step-by-step process of extracting the golden elixir from nature's plentiful soybeans, unlocking its diverse benefits. From its heart-healthy properties to its versatile culinary applications, soybean oil stands tall as a proper kitchen champion.

Embracing sustainable practices and innovation, we've discovered how to refine the production process. Thus, you can ensure a more eco-friendly and efficient journey from the farm to the dining table.

We hope that this piece of writing renders value to your business. As a soybean oil producer, you can keep in mind the ways that can help enhance your oil production.


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author-profile

Riyaz Tunvar

Riyaz Tunvar is a seasoned Director at N&T Engitech Pvt Ltd, specializing in sales and marketing for industrial plants, refinery, and machinery manufacturers. His deep understanding of the sector, combined with his customer-centric approach, has played a vital role in positioning N&T Engitech as a trusted name in the market.

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