Guide to Estimating the Cost of an Oil Distillation Plant

Distillation is a crucial part of the oil processing ecosystem. When it comes to oils derived from plant-based oil-bearing materials, the process is an extremely important way to extract oils, purify them, or separate them from the solvent used in their extraction. Nonetheless, oil distillation is not one singular technique – an important fact to remember as you embark on your search for the perfect machinery and assess the cost of distillation plant setups, which may vary based on the particular process you have in mind.

One important application of distillation is aqueous extraction. Here, the technique of steam or water distillation is employed to extract essential oils from flowers, herbs, and other plant-based sources. Essential oils and the water content of the oil-bearing material are separated by decantation. Second, when edible oils like rice bran oil or sunflower oil are extracted from rice bran and sunflower seeds, respectively, the solvent extraction method is used. This involves spraying a solvent, generally hexane, into the prepared bran or seed. The solvent mixes with the oil (this solution is called miscella) and separates out from the cake. But now, how do we recover the toxic solvent and achieve pure oil? Why, distillation, of course. Under reduced pressure to prevent the decomposition of heat-sensitive active ingredients, the solvent is recovered from the miscella. Further, the concentrated oil product – which still has traces of residual solvent – is processed under vacuum.

Estimating oil distillation plant cost in India is not easy because there are many different types of distillation plants. In this article, it is the second process mentioned above that we’re interested in. The process is carried out in a specialised distiller, usually in three stages of vacuum, each providing miscella of an incremental concentration over the previous stage. As you can tell, this is a highly complex and controlled process, and this is reflected in the cost of distillation plant.

What exactly is a solvent distiller?

The complexity of the distillation process is revealed in the complexity of the setup used to accomplish it. Steam distillation or solvent distillation requires an evaporator, a heater, and a vapour-condensing unit. An economizer is needed to help the miscella make its way to the evaporator. Here, partial solvent recovery takes place with the heat of the vapours which emerge from the desolventizer. After our three central components of the evaporator, heater, and condenser do their jobs, we arrive at the final stage – steam is used under a higher vacuum of 700 mmHg (lending the system the alternative name of steam distillation plant) to allow distillation at lower temperatures and with minimal damage to the oil. The oil is carried forward to the refining process – this includes degumming, alkali neutralization, bleaching, dewaxing, deodourisation, deacidification, and winterization. Meanwhile, solvent traces from outgoing vapours are recovered and recycled in the solvent extraction process.

Oil distillation plant cost in India: The features and factors that inform your investment

As you begin to equip your steam or oil solvent distillation plant, you’ll find that the cost of distillation plant goes way beyond just the capital cost of machinery. The quality of your machinery will influence the level of wear and tear it undergoes, how frequently you need to carry out repairs, how well it integrates with other machines in the oil processing ecosystem, and most importantly, the quality of the product that it yields.

But before we get to the operating costs and various complexities of operating a distillation plant within a larger ecosystem, you should consider the CAPEX oil distillation plant cost in India. Ideally, you should invest in a distiller which fits the intended scale of operations, fits comfortably within the space constraints of your oil processing facility, and ticks all the boxes that ensure it is a perfect fit for your particular plant process.

Allied machinery and accessories

As we’ve highlighted, oil solvent distillation is not carried out in isolation. So naturally, the cost of distillation plant is not the only amount you’ll have to shell out to set up a full-fledged distilling operation. You will need allied machinery like an expeller press (if pre-pressing is required for your oil), and oil extraction machine (for solvent extraction), a desolventizer toaster, a meal cooler, a miscella hopper, a hydroclone, and a spray distribution system. Add the cost of each of these pieces to the total budget you allot for your distillation plant cost.

Equipment quality

In spite of all the other factors that will influence how much you shell out as the cost of distillation plant, at the very centre of it all is quality. You may find that a piece of equipment checks a lot of boxes in terms of features that cater to your particular process, space efficiency, or sustainability, but if the machine itself appears to be of low quality – with lots of expected wear and tear, no safety mechanisms in place, inefficient design, or poor construction – you know better than to purchase it.

Equipment longevity

A high number of wear and tear parts should alert you to the fact that you will have to invest a significant amount of money in maintenance and repairs. So investing a large amount upfront for such a distillation plant cost makes no sense – in the long run, you will find that it will cost you a lot more as you run after spare parts, repair service providers, and keep your distillation plant idle while everything falls back into place again.

Instead, focus on longevity, durability, and minimum wear and tear from the very start, even if you have to pay a little more for the initial distillation plant cost. Distillers with special steel alloy construction, few or specially-treated wear and tear parts, and the promise of long-term service with an annual maintenance contract (AMC) make good investments. For instance, Kumar’s steam distillers are durable – with special steel alloy construction – with evaporator tubes designed to lower sludge deposition and minimise the need for frequent cleaning. Such attention to detail is what makes the best quality distillers worth the high distillation plant cost.

Product quality

The job of a steam or oil solvent distillation system is to recover as much of the solvent from the miscella as possible. How much solvent is recovered will determine the quality of the oil produced. So within the constraints outlined by oilseed type and overall budget, seek out distillers which are designed for optimal solvent recovery. For instance, Kumar’s distiller is designed especially with a stripper for proper film formation and solvent removal, a dryer with a spraying system to eliminate any solvent traces and dry the oil, and condensers for optimum reduced vacuum solvent condensation.

Not a luxury anymore, but a necessity: sustainability

All industrial processes consume a large amount of resources and produce different types of waste. In oil processing, it is utility consumption, solvent loss, and effluent discharge that needs to be managed. For example, Kumar’s systems are fairly sustainable – they are designed for minimal effluent discharge, with a cyclone-centrifugal separator type fines separation system that reduces utility consumption and an efficient vapour absorption system which prevents solvent loss.

At the end of the day, oil distillation plant cost in India goes far beyond just the cost of the machine. It includes not only the operating costs that you will invest into it as production progresses but also the costs on the people who work at the facility (in terms of ease of operation and safety) and the costs transferred onto the larger community (in terms of waste management and health costs).

Since 1939, Kumar has been delivering dependable process engineering solutions to the oils and fats industry. We're known for our robustly engineered, versatile, and operationally profitable plant and machinery. It's why customers all over the world depend on us to solve their processing challenges, big or small. If you'd like to know more about our solutions, please fill out the form below:

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