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Milestones

1835 The very beginning

Shortly after the creation of the Belgian state, the company sa Des Bougies de la Cour, Manufacture Royale, was founded, one of the first companies in the world to engage itself on an industrial scale in the chemistry of natural fats. The company delivered candles to the Court which can be derived from its name. During its existence this company merged with Roubais De Houdecove of Borgerhout. The production in Borgerhout diversified into candles, soap, edible oil, margarines and raw vegetable oils. Since more and more people settled in the area around the factory, the problems for the surrounding area grew bigger. In 1956 the company relocated to the new industrial park in Oelegem.

1957 Start of Oleochim

In 1957 PetroFina, together with Ashland (USA), established Oleochim nv in Ertvelde with its registered office in Brussels. The establishment of Oleochim allowed PetroFina to branch out from petrochemistry into oleochemistry. Oleochim chiefly produced fatty acids based on vegetable or animal fats.

1965 The link Ertvelde and Oelegem

In 1965 Oleochim nv of Ertvelde bought up Bougies de la Cour nv of Oelegem. With the merger PetroFina displayed a far-reaching interest in oleochemistry. With Oleochim situated beside the Ghent-Terneuzen sea canal, and Bougies de la Cour beside the Albert Canal, ideal transport possibilities were opened up.

1972 Merger with Palmafina

Palmafina, also a subsidiary of Petrofina, had been in existence in Ertvelde since 1931, producing deep fat fryer oil, butter, chocolate spread, and soap. In 1972 Oleochim took it over and the company was renamed Oleofina. Oleochim hereby gained a new field of activity: the food industry in addition to chemistry.

1974-1980 Difficult years

The second half of the 1970s was hard for Oleofina. Unprofitable departments were sold off: the candles to Vermorgen, the soap to Christeyns, and the food section to Safinco, a shareholder of Van De Moortele in Izegem. In 1980 the tide changed: Petrofina bought up all Oleofina shares from Ashland and investments were made in both plants (Ertvelde and Oelegem).

1986 Merger Oleofina and Synfina

Oleofina and Synfina, an insulation materials company, merged in 1986 to become Synfina-Oleofina. There were already plans at that time to build a new production unit in Ertvelde for fatty alcohols.

1991 Thorough reorganization

The company was dynamic and therefore changing at a fast pace. The registered office of Synfina-Oleofina, previously in Brussels, moved to Ertvelde, and the Sales and Marketing of the products was entrusted to Fina Chemicals.

1992 Name change

Synfina-Oleofina nv became Oleofina nv.  

1996 Another new name

In 1996 the name Oleofina nv changed to Fina Oleochemicals nv

1999-2000 Fusion

Total and PetroFina joined together to form TotalFina. TotalFina and Elf Aquitaine merged to become TotalFinaElf

2000 Birth of Oleon

At the end of November 2000 TotalFinaElf decided to sell Fina Oleochemicals as part of their plan to concentrate on their core competencies. The company was taken over by a consortium of investors under the leadership of Ackermans & van Haaren and members such as KBC Invest, Mercator & Noordstar, Fortis Private Equity, NIB Capital Bank, Jan De Clerck and the management. Fina Oleochemicals became Oleon.

2001 Moving North

Oleon took over Hydro Oleochemicals (HOC, one of the most important producers of oleochemical products in Scandinavia) from the Norwegian group Norsk Hydro and located in Sandefjord. The name was changed to Oleon Scandinavia AS.

2002-2004 Invested for The Future

In barely 2 years time, several important projects were realized. These projects brought the total production capacity of the group to more than 300.000 tons per year. At the Ertvelde plant a new distillation unit for vegetable glycerine was built. A new dimer plant was constructed at the Oelegem site. In that same timeframe a new office building was built at the Ertvelde site.

2006 Expanded to Germany

Oleon nv acquires the Akzo Nobel European Oleochemicals operation at Emmerich, Germany. The fatty acid production is closed at the Sandefjord site. Oleon nv builds at the Ertvelde site the first dedicated biodiesel plant in Belgium.

2007 Restored the glory

Oleon was struck by a fire in their main fatty acid installation in Ertvelde on January 27, 2007. Barely one month later the Board of Directors decided to build a complete new fatty acid plant on a nearby piece of land. Diester Industrie, a leading player in the European biodiesel market and Oleon join forces to build a new glycerine refining unit of 30.000 tons at the Compiègne site of Diester Industrie.  

2008 Marching to Far East

Construction of new Fatty Acids plant in Ertvelde to assure the market leader position in Europe
Oleon made the bold step to venture to Far East market by tapping in the fast growing palm oil industry. An investment was made to build a new ester plant in Malaysia

2009 Integrated into Sofiprotéol

Oleon is taken-over by Diester Industrie of 100 % of the shares to become a subsidiary of the Sofiprotéol group, Europe's reference for vegetable oil with activities in food, feed, biofuels and oleochemistry.

2010 Collaboration In Green Chemistry

Oleon initiated a plan for a new manufacturing plant for producing bio propylene glycol (PG) from glycerin in Ertvelde, Belgium. The plant is the first of its type worldwide, leveraging a highly sustainable production process developed and licensed by BASF and jointly realized with Oleon.  

2012 Heading Towards A Sustainable Future

A grand opening celebration was held at the propylene glycol (PG) plant on June 28, attracting more than 120 attendees, including local and regional government officials, BASF and Oleon corporate leaders and Ertvelde site employees.

2013 New food emulsifier plant

UniOleon is Oleon's new food emulsifier plant in Pulau Indah, Malaysia. The factory is expected to start producing food oleo-derivatives in 2014. The application and use of these products within the food segment will range from the bakery, the dairy to the confectionery industries. A dedicated applications lab will be created in order to enhance the development of food emulsifiers.

The Sofiprotéol Group is moving forward and becomes the Avril Group

In 2009, Oleon was integrated in the French Sofiprotéol Group, who is now introducing a new governance model and new organizational structure accompanied by a new name and a new visual identity: The Avril Group.

This change enables the consolidation of the Group and improves its visibility, while providing it with improved access to new financing in order to drive its development.