Plant oils as feedstock alternatives to petroleum - A short survey of potential oil crop platforms

Biochimie. 2009 Jun;91(6):665-70. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2009.03.021. Epub 2009 Apr 16.


Our society is highly depending on petroleum for its activities. About 90% is used as an energy source for transportation and for generation of heat and electricity and the remaining as feedstocks in the chemical industry. However, petroleum is a finite source as well as causing several environmental problems such as rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Petroleum therefore needs to be replaced by alternative and sustainable sources. Plant oils and oleochemicals derived from them represent such alternative sources, which can deliver a substantial part of what is needed to replace the petroleum used as feedstocks. Plant derived feedstock oils can be provided by two types of oil qualities, multi-purpose and technical oils. Multi-purpose oils represent oil qualities that contain common fatty acids and that can be used for both food and feedstock applications. Technical oil qualities contain unusual fatty acids with special properties gained from their unique molecular structure and these types of oils should only be used for feedstock applications. As a risk mitigation strategy in the selection of crops, technical oil qualities should therefore preferably be produced by oil crop platforms dedicated for industrial usage. This review presents a short survey of oil crop platforms to be considered for either multi-purpose or technical oils production. Included among the former platforms are some of the major oil crops in cultivation such as oil palm, soybean and rapeseed. Among the later are those that could be developed into dedicated industrial platforms such as crambe, flax, cotton and Brassica carinata. The survey finishes off by highlighting the potential of substantial increase in plant oil production by developing metabolic flux platforms, which are starch crops converted into oil crops.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brassica rapa / metabolism
  • Energy-Generating Resources*
  • Glycine max / metabolism
  • Helianthus / metabolism
  • Palm Oil
  • Petroleum*
  • Plant Oils / metabolism*
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Starch / metabolism
  • Turpentine / metabolism


  • Petroleum
  • Plant Oils
  • Palm Oil
  • Starch
  • Turpentine