Proceedings of International Symposium and Workshop on Environmental Pollution Control and Waste Management
7-10 January 2002, Tunis (EPCOWM’2002), p.249-257.
Cleaner production practices in Egyptian edible oil and soap industry
Sohair I. ABOU ELELA
Water Pollution Control Department, National Research Center
Cleaner production initiatives and practice in Egyptian Oil and Soap industry, with an overview of the current situation,
has been assessed. The effectiveness of cleaner production initiative and cleaner production implementation status are
also portrayed. Industrial auditing of more than 30 factories identified in excess of 200 low cost/no cost pollution aims
were to show the financial and environmental benefits of the cleaner production approach. Out put of these projects
indicated that there are numerous options for intervention ranged from simple housekeeping measures at first level
followed by recycle, reuse of water and recovery of energy and chemicals eventually leading to process modifications
entailing chemical substitution, equipment modifications and changes in the technology applied.
Cleaner production, Egyptian oil and soap industry, Housekeeping, Recycle, Reuse, Recovery of chemicals, Equipment
modifications, Changes in technology.
Cleaner Production-Concept and Definition
Traditionally, pollution coming from a factory has been controlled by using “end-of-pipe” controls, such as wastewater
treatment plants. This continues to be the most common method of dealing with water pollution in developing countries
An alternative approach to this is to eliminate the problem at the source, using the “Cleaner Production” approach.
Unlike end-of-pipe solutions alone, Cleaner Production can generate significant financial savings, improve product
quality and improve working conditions (Abou Elela, 1999; Abou- Elela ,2001).
Cleaner Production (CP) can be defined as “the continuous improvement of industrial process, products and services to
reduce the use of natural resources, to prevent-at the source-the pollution of air, water and land and to reduce waste
generation-at the source-in order to minimize risks to the human population and to he environment” (UNEP, 1990).
The operational expansion of this definition states that:
• For production processes, CP includes conserving raw materials and energy, eliminating toxic raw materials,
and reducing the quantity and toxicity of all emissions and wastes before they leave a process.
• For products, the strategy focuses on reducing impacts along the entire life cycle of the product from raw
material extraction to the ultimate disposal of the product.
• For services, the strategy incorporates environmental concerns into designing and delivering services.
Benefits of Cleaner Production
The CP concept radically differs from the traditional end-of-pipe approach, in that CP makes no division between
production and the wastes generated by production. It is an integrated approach which attempts to conserve resources
by increasing production efficiency whilst meeting environmental requirements. In addition, by minimizing wastage,
the required capacity of any wastewater treatment plant will be greatly reduced, thus reducing capital, operating and
By adopting the CP approach, waste reduction automatically starts to occur. As a result, the overall resource utilization
factor improves, leading to increased profitability and competitiveness. Against the rising costs and procurement
difficulties of resources, these benefits may even be greater than the savings made on waste treatment costs.
Adoption of the CP approach can result in the following specific benefits being realized:
Improved efficiency: Cleaner Production leads to better efficiency of production, which means more output of product
per unit input of raw materials. This helps the financial performance of the factory.
Lower costs: The ultimate goal of Cleaner Production is to minimize the generation of emissions and waste. Thereby,
the amount of waste and emissions that need to be treated are reduced, as are the associated costs.
Conservation of raw material and energy: Given the increasing cost of raw materials and the growing scarcity of good
quality water, industry cannot afford to use these resources inefficiently. Cleaner Production measures help in
overcoming constraints posed by scarce or increasingly costly material, water and energy.
Market Requirements: Increasing consumer awareness of environmental issues has brought about a need for the
companies to demonstrate the “environmental friendliness” of their products and manufacturing processes,
particularly in International markets. The emerging ISO 14000 series further accentuates this need. By adopting the
Cleaner Production approach, many of the market requirements are met and a company’s ability to compete and get
access to the “green market” increases.
Improved Environment: Cleaner Production minimizes the volume and toxicity of waste and emissions and renders
products more agreeable from an environmental standpoint. The direct effect is that the pollution load on the
environment is decreased and environmental quality improved.
Increased compliance with environmental regulations: Minimizing or eliminating the causes of wastes and emissions
makes it easier to meet existing environmental regulations and standards and reduces the environmental impact of the
Working environment (Occupational Health and Safety Issues): Cleaner Production not only improves the
environment outside the factory but improves working conditions as well. Keeping the factory clean and free of waste,
spilled water, oil and chemicals not only reduces the likelihood of accidents but motivates the workforce to control new
leaks and material losses.
Public image: As public awareness of the need of environmental protection is growing each day, it becomes more and
more important for the industry to respond and react to the questions and demands posed by the public. The
environmental profile of a company is an increasingly important part of its overall reputation. Adopting Cleaner
Production is a proactive, positive measure and can help the concerned company build confidence with the public
regarding its environmental responsibility.
The aim of this study was to assess the cleaner production initiatives and practice in Egyptian Oil and Soap industry
with an overview of the current situation. Also, to evaluate the effectiveness of cleaner production initiative and cleaner
production implementation status.
Cleaner production in Egypt
Cleaner Production in Egyptian Oil and Soap Industry
The Oil and Soap industry is considered one of the oldest and most important industries in Egypt. Its importance
emerges from the fact that its major product “Edible Vegetable Oil” is an essential ingredient of a balanced human
diet. Oil and Soap industry produces many products such as vegetable oil, shortening, ghee, toilet and laundry soaps,
glycerin, animal fodders and other by-products. Vegetable oils are produced from oil seeds such as cottonseed,
sunflower and soybean or directly from fruits such as palm and olives.
Oil and Soap production in Egypt is undertaken by both public and private sector companies. Its large production scale
and its large labors force characterize public companies. There are eight public oil and soap companies working in
Egypt, these are owned by the Holding Company of Food Industries, which is one of the major holding companies in
the public sector. Private companies for oil processing now comprise a considerable part of the industry. Individuals or
boards of national and foreign investors, own private sector companies, in other cases shares of such companies are
being dealt in the stock market. Private sector companies are smaller in scale than public sector ones, and usually each
company owns one factory. In addition to public and private sector companies, there are a number of multinational
factories that are working in Egypt, mainly in the new cities. Throughout the sector, each factory commonly has several
processing plants, such as extraction, refining and deodorization plants, soap manufacturing plant, glycerin production
plant…. Etc. In some factories, especially those in the public sector companies, all the manufacturing plants for
processing oilseeds, crude oils and by-products may be present. More commonly though, individual factories will only
carry out a part of the process with by products being sent to another factories for further processing.
Oil and Soap factories use a range of technologies vary from simple to the latest ones. Although, in some large factories
they use the latest technology, especially in oil refinery however, improper and uncontrolled operation and maintenance
of the process create many environmental problems. In some small and medium factories they use very old equipment
and apply obsolete technologies which aggravate the environmental problems and results in great losses of raw
materials, products, energy and wastes (Abou-Elela,1999; Abou-Elela and Zaher, 1998 and Abou-Elela,1997).
Wastes generated by the sector include water pollution, land contamination, air pollution and other environmental risks.
The discharge rate of wastewater can be as high as 14,000m3/day in some factories but the average rate discharged
from medium and small scale facilities is about 500m3/d. The wastewater usually contains appreciable amounts of fatty
matter that increase the strength of the organic load dramatically. However, it is often that small portions of wastewater
is responsible for high pollution loads, while the rest is mainly relatively clean cooling water.
There are several projects in Egypt with international donors working on the domain of cleaner production in oil and
soap sector. The cleaner production and pollution prevention programme have been promoted on a National level in
1994 (The National Industrial Pollution Prevention programme (NIPPP) and executed by the Egyptian Environmental
Affairs Agency (EEAA). There are several international agencies worked under this umbrella and one of the most
directly related project is the Support for Environmental Assessment and Management (SEAM) project.
The aim of this study is to assess the cleaner production initiatives and practice in Egyptian oil and soap industry with
an overview of the current situation. Also, to evaluate the effectiveness of cleaner production initiative and cleaner
production implementation status.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
Industrial auditing of more than 32 Oil and Soap factories have been carried out. It was a systematic review of a
company’s processes and operations designed to identify and provide information about opportunities to reduce waste,
reduce pollution and to improve operational efficiency.
Objectives of the Audit
The objective of the audit is to identify the following:
• Environmentally damaging activities
• Compliance with legislation
• Opportunities for reductions in resource utilization
• Waste minimization strategies
• Effectiveness of existing management controls
• Potential remediation programmed
• Low cost/no cost pollution
• Prevention measures
• Pollution prevention measures with relatively short payback periods.
Industrial auditing guidelines were prepared for application in Egypt and presented in Document Guidelines for
Industrial Audits prepared by Entec /TCOE, 1995.
All improvement measures were documented by a cost/benefit analysis whenever possible.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Cleaner Production Options in Oil and Soap, an Overview of Opportunities
The Egyptian Oil and Soap industry seem to carry significant environmental risks in that:
- Produces large quantities of wastes.
- Their wastes become putrid and objectionable very quickly.
- Their waste fined their way into watercourses.
- Their wastes are often not treated.
- The quantity of wastes is unknown and uncontrolled.
- Wastes constitute a potential resource in some cases.
- Wastes can constitute a health hazard.
- Waste of energy reduces the viability of company operations.
- Waste of water represents a major resource issue to Egypt.
Therefore, in these industries, there are numerous options for intervention. The practicality of these options will depend
on the business cycle, the business situation of the firm and numerous other factors. Generally these options fell into a
• Good Housekeeping
• Energy conservation.
• Raw materials and input changes.
• Chemical substitution.
• On site recycle and reuse.
• Product design.
• Worker training program.
Cleaner production in Egypt
Cleaner Production Options Identified in the Oil and Soap Industry
Cleaner production options identified through many projects for Oil and Soap industry ranges from simple house
keeping measures at the first level followed by recycle, reuse of water and recovery of energy and chemicals,
eventually leading to process modifications entailing chemical substitutions, equipment modifications and changes in
the technology. Following are some of the recommended CP interventions made for the factories audited by SEAM
1- Good House keeping measures
There are numerous simple internal measures that can be undertaken in every plant to reduce its wastage. Most of
these measures involve the elimination of accidental spills and major losses of costly raw materials such as:
• Batch tanks that are filled manually can be equipped with high-level alarm or more positive control to prevent
• Material losses resulting from filling, mixing, boiling, or aerating of tanks can be prevented by increasing the
free board of adding splash plates at strategic points.
• The cleaning of equipment and work area may be carried out in continuous operation or it may be conducted
batch wise on non-production shift.
• Proper maintenance and repair of leaks.
• Proper storage of raw materials (Seeds).
• Proper material handling and storage of crude oil.
• Prevent spillage of oils and fats by improving procedure instruction.
Also, in the soap production plants the soap dust can be reduced to the minimum by:
• Periodical discharge of the powder precipitator after each shift.
• Changing the rubber gasket in the powder precipitator regularly to reduce the leakage.
• Recovery of soap dust from the floor using a vacuum cleaner.
• Discharge the contents of the powder precipitator directly to the powder soap unit by mechanical, rather
than manual means.
2- Energy Conservation Measures
Actions that can be taken included:
• Implementation of suitable preventive maintenance programs.
• Regular boiler tuning and maintenance.
• Proper installation of steam pipes.
• Heat recovery from boiler blow down.
• Installation of steam flow meters for each processing department.
• Utilization of steam condensate.
Other Actions, including some equipment modifications are:
- Water treatment to control TDS.
- Optimizing boiler efficiency by controlling draft (implementation of damper and fuel firing practices).
- Optimization of the burner.
- Avoidance of space heating.
- Where practicable, substitute, natural gas for solar and mazot.
3- Water Conservation Measures
Water is widely used in the Oil and Soap industry for different processes ranging from generating steam to the
washing of oil. Saving in water could be made via..
Reduction of total flow can be achieved by e.g installing self closing taps and water meter to control water
consumption, provide water to the equipment when needed, use automatic shut off/flow limits where possible and
Water recovery and reuse
• Cooling water should be recycled rather than disposed.
• The wash water of oil from the second stage can be recycled and reused in the first stage.
• Use of evaporative cooling system is recommended to open cooling circuits.
• Recycling of steam condensate.
4- Process Specific Cleaner Production Options
This includes in-plant measures and preventive measure such as:
• Optimization of feeding rate of flaked seeds to the extractor.
• Reuse of seed fines from preparation unit.
• Proper maintenance of hexane sensor.
• Modification of solvent spray nozzles (fat flat type).
• Use of caustic soda solution rather than solid.
• Installation of mechanical skimmer on hot wells to recover short chains fatty acids.
• Use of Miscella refining technique (cleaner production technology) for oil refining by chemical methods. In
this technology the crude oil is mixed with 50% hexane and then the soda is added as usual. The separation of
mucilage from the refined oil in solvents occurs much more efficient.
• Collection and recycle of oil spilt in the packaging unit.
• Accurate adjustment of temperature and pressure in the glycerin distillation unit to prevent polymer formation.
• Re-saponification of hot spent lye to prevent foams overflow.
• Recovery of wasted soap and recalculation to the saponification unit by installing a steam jacketed tank
around the soap pipeline.
• Prevention of spent lye spills during transportation to glycerin unit by connecting direct pipeline between
batch saponification units to glycerin
• Recovery of fodder ingredients by installation of a cyclone vacuum system.
5- Optimizing Process Chemical Use
Cleaner production in Egypt
• Control of the use of bleaching earth.
• Control consumption of hexane.
• Optimum use of coastic soda.
6- Material Substitution
• Lint can be recovered and sold.
• Recovery of broken seeds for reuse.
• Recovery of volatile fatty acids from hot wells and reused as animal fodder constituent.
• Deodorization distillate can be collected and sold as valuable material such as tocopherol (vitamin E).
• Recovery and utilization of oxygen produced in the hydrogen production plant to be used in medical purposes.
• Semi-solid waste generated from the glycerin distillation can be used for paving or for use as a waterproofing.
• Glycerin residues from the glycerin concentration plant can be recycled to the soap plant.
• Solid aluminum soap formed in glycerin unit can be sold as a metallic soap.
• Backing wastes such as off cuts and scraps from the manufacture of cans can
be pressed and sold to a metal processing factory.
7- Technology Change and Modification
• Use of heat exchanger.
• Use of solar energy as an alternative to conventional energies.
8- Adoption of Worker Training Program
9- End-of Pipe Treatment
Although it is not CP options but often required to bring the final effluent up to the National Standards that
complies with waste water discharge legislations.
Potential of Cleaner Production in Edible Oil
The overall potential of Cleaner Production and subsequent enhancing profit margin in edible oil units is about LE30-
100 per ton of final product. The potential of Cleaner Production in monetary terms is given in the following Table (1).
Table (1) Potential of Cleaner Production
Potential of Cleaner Production
Area Quantity Value (L.E)
Oil recovery from broken seeds 25-30 % 15-20
Final Product 15.30 % 0-25*
By-product (lecithin) 4-20 Kg/T 5-25
Steam 200-400 kg/T 8-15
Electrical Energy 30-60 KW/T 3-6
Neutralising chemicals 10-16 kg/T 1-16**
* Difference in the Price of hydrogenated oil
** If using caustic lye.
Seam Project in Oil and Soap Industry
The SEAM project carried out audits of 11 Oil and Soap factories. These audits focused on identifying low-cost
interventions with fast payback period, A total of 120 such inventions were identified, with implementation costs
ranging from L.E O to L.E 550,000. Savings from implementing these actions ranged from L.E 2,4000 to L.E
1,000,000 with average payback periods of less than 2 months. A summary of the different types of interventions
identified is shown in Table (2).
Table (2) Summary of identified interventions by SEAM project
Type of Intervention Capital Annual savings Average
Costs (L.E) Payback
Improved Housekeeping 0-200,000 12,960-1,000,000 <1
Energy Conservation 0-30,000 222,000-550,000 <1
Water Conservation, Recycling 0-40,000 13,000-40,000 5
Process Modifications 0-127,600 2,400-250,000 3
Optimizing Use of Process 0 81,000-460,000 <1
Chemicals and Materials
Recovery of By-Product 0-200,000 1,000-630,000 <1
The manufacturing technologies applied in Egyptian Oil & Soap industry and its relation to the best industrial practices
have been highlighted. Factories use a range of technologies vary from the simple to the latest in membrane and
evaporator and Micella refinery.
The improper and uncontrolled operation and maintenance of the processes create many environmental problems. In
some other small and medium factories they use very old equipment and apply obsolete technologies which aggravate
the environmental problems and resulted in great losses of raw materials, products energy and water.
From previous work it was apparent that there is a wide range of pollution prevention/cleaner production opportunities
which could be implemented , with significant financial advantage for the factories as well as reducing environmental
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