Oleon opens new innovative ester manufacturing plant in Belgium
Photo courtesy of Oleon

Oleon opens new innovative ester manufacturing plant in Belgium

Oleon, the European market leader in oleochemicals, has opened a brand new ester manufacturing plant in Oelegem, near Antwerp, Belgium. The new plant produces esters without the use of solvents.

The plant, which is located along the Albert Canal and is directly connected to the Port of Antwerp, ultimately reduces CO2 emissions from production by more than 40% and reduces waste production by 60%.

“This will enable us to greatly reduce the CO2 emissions from the production of enzymatic esters for the food and cosmetics industries, amongst other sectors, while at the same time producing significantly less waste,” says Jeroen Dirckx, managing director, Derivatives at Oleon. 

A total of EUR17.4 million (USD19.04 million) has been invested in the new plant, including EUR13.3 million (USD14.55 million) in European subsidies.

Over the past few years, more than 100 Oleon employees and engineers have worked intensively on this unique new installation.

The plant works on the basis of so-called enzymatic esterification. This means that the esters are produced with only natural building blocks, i.e. proteins or enzymes. This has been made possible through an innovative technology developed by Oleon together with seven other companies, research organizations and academics, within the European research program INCITE. 

This new process drastically reduces the working temperature during the process, while also increasing product quality.

Environmentally friendly industry

“We are incredibly proud that with our new plant we are helping to pave the way for a more climate-friendly industry in Europe. Indeed, the benefits of this technology will not only impact the chemical industry. They will have an impact on lower-carbon production of food, cosmetics and lubricants. We consider this primarily a starting point. Continuing along this path, we are capable of bringing about impactful changes in the European industry in the long term. And this, together with our partners from the INCITE program,” said Moussa Naciri, CEO of Oleon, which is part of the Avril Group.

Shipping 3,000 tonnes of esters

Moving forward, 3,000 tonnes of sustainably produced esters can be shipped annually from Oelegem via the Port of Antwerp.

โ€œI am very happy that Oleon has chosen its Oelegem plant for a very important future-oriented investment. The environment and global warming are impossible to ignore today. Natural basic products, reduction of CO2 emissions and lower processing temperatures justify this investment. Through the port of Antwerp, Oleon’s products are distributed worldwide. Despite the fact that Oleon is an international player, the ties with the local community have not been neglected. And that is very valuable too,โ€ said Johan De Ryck, mayor of Ranst.

Explore more on these topics