If you are buying a solid oil like organic coconut or organic palm oil and you’re getting it in a 55 gallon drum, you may encounter a predicament when you begin your production: how do you get this solid oil (often the consistency of butter) out of it’s packaging?
Unless you are buying smaller pails with a lid that you can pull off completely, “scooping” the oil out isn’t always an option. Many drums that have a solid oil inside require that you heat the oil first to melt it and turn it into a liquid to get it out.
What’s the best way to heat it? There are many different options, and I met with our production manager, Kevin Smith, who made a number of good suggestions. Here is what he recommends for those of you trying to melt your solid oil for the first time.
Remember that different coconut oils melt at different temperatures, so you’ll have to make sure that you know the melting point of the oil that you have. As a starting point, most RBD coconut oils melt at 76˚F, so you’ll just need to get the oil warmer than that to transform it into its liquid state.
Space Heater & A Small Room
One of the simplest ways to heat the drum is to allow it to sit in a small enclosed room that is warmer that 76˚F. It typically takes about 12-24 hours to fully melt a 55 gallon drum, but of course that depends on the size of the room and the power of your heater. Just place the single drum in the room and put a space heater nearby (but make sure that it’s not too close for safety reasons).
Immersion heaters are effective ways to quickly melt the oil from the inside out. It is best described as a heating coil that’s put down into the oil, that hangs from the side of the drum. Of course, if you are putting this heating coil into a solid block of oil, it will have to “melt its way in”. You’ll also have to worry about keeping it clean, so it makes a very effective but a more high-maintenance choice. Also, this would only work with a drum that has a cover the comes completely off the top allowing you full access to the oil.
Drum Heating Bands
These drum heating bands can be secured around the outsides of the drums and work like an electric blanket. One or two will work quite well if you’re just trying to melt down one drum (if you have two bands, put one on the top and bottom of the drum). However, if you’ve got a larger scale production facility, this option would become cost prohibitive pretty quickly if you’re trying to heat multiple drums at once.
Hot Water Bath
If your packaging is small enough (or you have a creative set-up in your space) you can put your coconut oil in a hot water bath. This is a fast and cheap way to safely heat your oil. Just get a large container of hot water and plunk the oil in. You can imagine though, if you are dealing with 55 gallon drum sizes, this option might be out unless you have a unique “bath area” in your production facility.
If you live in a warm area, sometimes just putting your drum outside throughout the warmth of the day will do the trick. Of course, it depends on where you live and the time of year. But this is a spectacularly easy and cheap option if it works for you.
Larger Built-In Heating Options
If you use a large volume of this oil, some larger packaging sizes have built in heaters. 275 Gallon Totes can have heaters built into the bottom to allow you to simply plug in the packaging to melt it. Even larger, you can have 6,000 gallon tanker trucks delivered that have heaters built into them, allowing you to pump into your heated storage tank directly from a tanker truck.