Babassu Oil: N-paraffin production

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N-paraffin, a petroleum by-product, is used to make detergents and well-drilling fluids. This fluid is used to lubricate the drill string of oil extraction wells, but production of this product is declining worldwide.
An unprecedented technology is being developed in Bahia refineries: a mixture of babassu oil with N – paraffin from chemical hydrogenation reactions. The result is 100% yield in drilling fluid manufacturing.
But why, among the variety of vegetable oils existing in Brazil, was babassu oil chosen for this purpose? Babassu is lighter and is concentrated in the Northeast region.
As the Northeast is a needy region, it was a priority in the choice. The extraction of babassu oil in this region can help generate jobs, since the Maranhão region has the largest concentration of babassu trees in the country: there are 10 million hectares.
Process for obtaining N-paraffin:
1- After the N-paraffin is extracted from petroleum by the distillation process, it is transferred to a reactor with a catalyst where it will be mixed with babassu oil and hydrogen (hydrogenation);

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2- The catalyst promotes the breaking of the carbon chains of the vegetable oil, in this stage of the process, undesirable compounds and contaminants, such as sulfur and aromatics, are eliminated;
3- The final fractionation allows separating the N-paraffin according to its use. At higher temperature, the fraction destined for diesel oil is obtained, at intermediate temperature for detergents and at low temperature for oil well drilling fluids.

By Líria Alves
Graduated in Chemistry

Source: Brazil School -
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