Research underway to replace crude oil with vegetable oil in candle making

By on February 8, 2017

THE HAGUE –Researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands are working on a vegetable-based alternative for paraffin wax, the main raw material for candles made from crude oil, the university announced on Wednesday.

By treating liquid oils with hydrogen gas, solidified oils can be obtained, but the hydrogenated oils created are brittle and difficult to process.

“By combining them with ‘softer’ oil and fat derivatives, we can create a vegetable wax with better properties that can be used for all candle processes,” explained Rolf Blaauw, senior scientist at Wageningen Food and Biobased Research.

Encased candles such as tea lights often already contain vegetable oils, but the process and properties required for making correctly functioning free-standing candles are a big challenge for vegetable oil-based alternatives. The research team therefore aims to modify the vegetable oils to make them suitable for producing more technically demanding candles.

The research will eventually result in an economically viable process for producing high-quality candles using vegetable oils, giving the industry a tried-and-tested alternative to paraffin, said Blaauw.

The candle market is the biggest application of paraffin waxes in Europe with an estimated sales value of 1.5 billion euros (1.6 billion U.S. dollars) per year. If all parts of the supply chain cooperate and collaborate effectively, more sustainable candle products can be produced, said Cargill, one of the world’s largest producers of vegetable oils, which joined the research project with other partners.

The vegetable-based alternative to replace the mineral oil-based paraffin will be attractive for consumers and producers alike, noted Cargill’s BioIndustrial team.