Industrial Catalysis

Manufacture of margarine

Margarine is made by the hydrogenation of vegetable oils.

Summary of conditions and catalyst for hydrogenation

world annual production


Over 2 million tonnes (4 billion pounds)

raw materials

vegetable oils such as palm, sunflower, rape seed and soya bean oils


430 K


nickel (finely divided and supported on kieselguhr, which is a form of silica)

What is margarine?

Margarine is a butter substitute, the composition of which is controlled by law. In the UK, every 100 g margarine must contain:

  • between 80 and 90% fat
  • between 800 and 1000 mg Vitamin A
  • between 7.05 and 8.05 mg Vitamin D

Making margarine

The raw materials for the manufacture of margarine are vegetable oils such as palm, sunflower, rape seed and soya bean oils.
Vegetable oils contain triglyceride esters derived from propane-1,2,3-triol (glycerol), and unsaturated carboxylic or fatty acids.

The most common, naturally occurring fatty acids - oleic acid and linoleic acid - are both unsaturated.

Unsaturated oils have low melting points and some are relatively unstable to oxidation. Higher melting points and greater stability are achieved by the conversion to margarine by the process of hydrogenation in which hydrogen reacts with some of the carbon - carbon double bonds.



+ H2