PEF (pulsed electric field) treatment in olive oil production

PEF enables olive oil producers to extract more oil from each processed olive. How you might ask? In this post, we’ll take a closer look at PEF in olive oil extraction and how pulsed electric field technology impacts the EVOO extraction process.

Every cell in this world has some conductivity – meaning, the ability to transfer electricity. You have it, your dog has it and olives has it.

Conductivity creates the conditions for the PEF technologies’ efficiency.

PEF creates Electroporation (Membrane Permeabilization), the high-voltage electrical pulses create pores or openings in the cell membrane. These pores are typically nanoscale and form in response to the electric field. The pores allow the cell content to pass through the membrane more easily.

Olive oil extraction - Breaking and entering

After harvesting olives the next step is getting the oil out of the olives, preferably, as efficiently as possible.

The structure of an olive can vary slightly depending on the olive variety and its ripeness. But true for all olives is that the olive oil is primarily located in the thin layer of tissue surrounding the pit or stone of the olive, known as the oil sac.

This oil sac contains the majority of the oil in the olive fruit. When olives are crushed or pressed, the oil sac is ruptured, releasing the oil, which can then be separated from the other components of the olive, such as the flesh and pit.

Modern equipment, such as hydraulic presses and centrifugal extractors, are designed to maximize oil extraction efficiency. The crusher grinds, breaks, crushes, and mashes the olives into a paste.

However, no matter how modern a crusher is there will always be a certain amount of oil still hiding inside a cell. Olive oil extraction is a complex process, to say the least. This is why applying PEF in olive oil extraction is a game-changer.

PEF technology in olive oil production
Olive oil is located inside of the cells of an olive. To extract it - the cell membrane must be disrupted.
The olive crusher "breaks" the cell membrane to release the oil. But a significant amount of oil still lurks inside the cell.

Applying PEF for optimized olive oil extraction

The application of PEF treatment in olive oil extraction is preferably applied in the initial stage of the process, right after the crusher, before malaxation. 

The disrupted olive cells, still containing a substantial amount of oil, are subjected to the pulses that create an electric field within the olive, and the electrical energy disrupts the cell membranes of the olive tissue, releasing more oil.

The disrupted cell membranes make it easier for the olive oil to flow out of the cells and be separated from the other components of the olive, such as water and solids. 

Moreover, this also leads to several positive “side effects” – shorter processing time and better quality of the final product.

PEF (pulsed electric field) applied on olive cells
PEF ensures that most possible oil is released from each cell.

Scientific studies confirming the impact of PEF

Several studies have been carried out in the past to confirm the effects of pulsed electric field treatment for olive oil production. During the 2022-2023 season, OptiCept Technologies has worked with the Spanish research institute IFAPA to analyze the effect of the CEPT technology. The results confirm the good effects of the treatment on olive oil extraction, which is now attracting a lot of attention in the Iberian Peninsula.

Read more about the study here ->

Optimizing olive oil extraction - why is it important?

Optimizing olive oil extraction is crucial for several reasons. Looking at the bigger picture, climate change, and growing populations are motivating factors. Furthermore:

  • Maximizing Oil Yield: Olive oil is a valuable product, and optimizing the extraction process helps maximize the quantity of oil obtained from the harvested olives. Higher oil yield means more product to sell, increasing the economic return for olive growers and producers.
  • Preserving Quality: The quality of olive oil is highly dependent on the extraction process. Proper optimization can help maintain the desired flavor, aroma, and chemical composition of the oil. High-quality olive oil is in demand and commands premium prices in the market.
  • Efficiency and Cost Savings: Optimized extraction processes are more efficient, which can result in cost savings for olive oil producers. Efficiency improvements may include reduced energy consumption, shorter processing times, and less wastage.
  • Environmental Impact: Reducing waste and energy consumption in the extraction process can have positive environmental implications. Sustainable and efficient extraction methods are important for minimizing the environmental footprint of olive oil production.
  • Consistency: Optimized processes help ensure consistency in the quality and characteristics of the olive oil. This consistency is important for building a brand reputation and meeting customer expectations.
  • Compliance with Standards: Many regions and countries have specific quality and safety standards for olive oil. Optimization helps producers meet these standards and ensures that the oil is safe for consumption.
  • Competitive Advantage: Producers who can consistently deliver high-quality olive oil with good yields have a competitive advantage in the market. They can build a loyal customer base and stand out from competitors.
  • Economic Viability: For olive growers and oil producers, achieving optimal extraction results is critical for the economic viability of their operations. Efficient extraction processes can lead to profitability and sustainability in the industry.
  • Resource Management: Optimizing extraction processes helps make the most of available resources, including water, energy, and labor. This is especially important in regions where these resources may be limited.
  • Research and Innovation: The pursuit of optimization often drives research and innovation in the olive oil industry. New technologies and techniques are continuously developed to improve the extraction process, leading to advancements in the field.

In summary, optimizing the process with PEF in olive oil extraction is essential for maximizing both the quantity and quality of the product, ensuring economic viability, reducing environmental impact, and meeting industry standards. It is a critical aspect of olive oil production that benefits producers, consumers, and the industry as a whole.

oliveCEPT - A PEF generator designed for the olive oil industry

Curious to learn more about the available technology?

oliveCEPT is available in models tailored for production lines with capacities from 0,5 – 10 t/h. Download the product sheet to understand which model is suitable for your production, or contact us for a quote.

oliveCEPT BALDER - A PEF unit designed for the olive oil industry

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