Project: Tenkawang Factory

In the tropical rainforest a tree can be found that produces seeds containing a high-quality oil, the Tengkawang tree. In the factory, this oil is pressed from the seeds.

More information through the movie about the factory from Raymond Hartman and Daniel Nijenhuis.

More information about the project the Tengkawang Factory

The Tengkawang Factory in Tembak

On August 19, 2014 the world’s first Tengkawang (illipe or “green” butter) plant was opened in the village of Tembak, located about 75 km from the regional capital of West Kalimantan Sintang. The factory presses oil from the Tengkawang nut.

The Tengkawang nut

The Tenkawang nut grows in the tropical rainforests of Borneo, among others in the area around Tembak, and is ready for harvesting six months after the flower has bloomed. When the nuts fall from the trees, they are wet, and should be dried within two days after harvest and to be processed into fat within two months. Ca. five hundred tons of nuts can be processed into ninety tons of fat.

The Tengkawang nut
The Tengkawang nut

The Tengkawang factory in Tembak, a zero waste system!

The factory was built between March and August 2014. In the factory, the nuts are dried, the skin is peeled, and oil is pressed from the nuts. The drying process uses heat generation via energy-efficient bio-char derived from waste wood from the jungle. In the months that the plant can not process Tengkawang nuts, it is used for other purposes such as the drying of rice, fruit, wood and rubber. The oil press is also used to produce kemiri oil, coconut fat and dry coconut flakes. And at a later stage locally planted jatropha seeds can be pressed in the same machine to produce diesel fuel for the generator. The exhaust from the generator can be passed through a heat exchanger so again this produces heat for the drying process.

The plant produces electricity and the already above mentioned biochar ( The biochar oven moreover also produces wood vinegar (to kill weeds) and tar (for wooden foundations). Moreover, the residue of the pressed Tengkawang nuts is a good and healthy supplement to mix in feed for pigs and fish. And the whole production process does not produce waste and is therefore a zero waste system.

The Tengkawang factory in Tembak, West Kalimantan
The Tengkawang factory in Tembak, West Kalimantan

What is so special about the oil /fat, and what products are being made of?

The quality of Tengkawang fat is much better than that of e.g. palm oil. It is healthier than palm oil fat, has more useful applications, the nuts have a higher fat content and the fat can be stored for years. The fat contains around 42% of the precious stearic acid, the highest content of all vegetable fats.

The composition of illipe butter is similar to cocoa butter, but it has a higher melting point. It melts in contact with the skin, which makes it suitable also to use it in body balms, creams, lotions, face masks, make-up, hair conditioners, sunscreens, lip sticks and other similar applications where a higher melting point is desired. The factory among others now makes also soap from the oil. The process for this has been developed by a number of students from the university of Delft (the Netherlands). This product is very interesting for cosmetics manufacturers and the food industry.

Tengkawang oil coming from the press.
Tengkawang oil coming from the press.

What does the project economically for the local population?

Thanks to the nuts some 160 farmers receive an additional income of around 16% annually. This will strengthen their incomes position and this means the farmers are less susceptible to pressure from the palm oil companies to sell their land. We hope to protect the tropical rainforest, but also to give people a sustainable income.

In addition, there are jobs for 15 people who run the plant, and there is some additional employment like f.i. a small shop next to the plant, where lunch is made for the staff, and there are some material suppliers.

The drying of the Tengkawang nuts in the sun.
Income for local people, a future for the children!

And further?

An organic vegetable garden has been created next to the plant, so that people can immediately see the benefits of using a mix of biochar and compost for their crops. It appears that as a result of using this mix the proceeds can be greatly increased.

What happens to the revenue/profit?

The profit of the plant will be used -after repayment to sponsors- to continue putting forth the Tengkawang project. There are plans to make similar zero waste production sites in several places around the Saran forest, so that we can help even more farmers, and protect additional hectares of forest.

What does this mean for the rainforest?

The Tengkawang factory provides extra income so the Dayaks can stay in their beloved tropical rainforest, and so they can protect their own forest.

In the past there has already been cut a huge amount of Tengkawang trees, which caused a sharp drop in income from Tengkawang nuts. Agung Bedura a young Dayak: “We all know that the loss of revenue from Tengkawang trees, one of the main sources of revenue for our Dayak community, was the intent of palm oil companies and other large enterprises, so that we would be more dependent of them.”

Agung, a young Dayak, determined to preserve the traditions of his ancestors.
Agung, a young Dayak, determined to preserve the traditions of his ancestors.

Where in the Netherlands can I buy products containing Tengkawang oil?

This high-quality oil is now being used in eg soap, which is sold in the Netherlands in the webshops oforangutan rescue and Shopping Prince, as well as in the physical store of Shopping Prince in The Hague. The introduction of the soap in the Netherlands was celebrated, wherein the first soap was offered to Wieteke van Dort.

Masarang soap made in the Tengkawang factory in Tembak (West Kalimantan, Indonesia)

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