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Chapter 8



Turpentine is the volatile oil distilled from pine resin, which itself is obtained by tapping trees of the genus Pinus. The solid material left behind after distillation is known as rosin. Both products are used in a wide variety of applications but only turpentine is discussed in detail here (rosin is briefly referred to in PRODUCTS OTHER THAN OIL, below).

Turpentine, rosin and derivatives of these which have been obtained via tapping of living pine trees (whether natural stands or plantations) are known collectively as gum naval stores (and the turpentine and rosin as gum turpentine and gum rosin, respectively). This distinguishes them from turpentine and rosin which have been recovered as by-products from chemical pulping of pines and which are referred to as sulphate naval stores; and wood naval stores, which are similar materials obtained from aged pine stumps. Neither sulphate nor wood naval stores are discussed further.

Traditionally, turpentine has been employed as a solvent or cleaning agent for paints and varnishes and this is still often the case today, particularly in those countries where the pine trees are tapped. There are also some specialized uses, in the pharmaceutical industry, for example.

Most turpentine nowadays, however, is used as a source of chemical isolates which are then converted into a wide range of products. Many of these, including the biggest single turpentine derivative, synthetic pine oil, are employed for fragrance and flavour use, although there are also many important non-aromatic applications such as polyterpene resins. Pine oil is used in disinfectants, cleaning agents and other products having a "pine" odour. Derivatives such as isobornyl acetate, camphor, citral, linalool, citrinellal, menthol and many others are used either in their own right or for the elaboration of other fragrance and flavour compounds. Many of the odours and flavours in use today, which are associated with naturally occurring oils, may well be derived, instead, from turpentine.

A few of the minor constituents of turpentine, such as anethole, are employed for fragrance or flavour use without the need for chemical modification.



No more than some general comments and an indication of markets are given here. Trade statistics are complex and difficult to analyze in terms of gum turpentine alone: firstly, because it is not always disaggregated from sulphate turpentine and secondly, because there is considerable trade in turpentine derivatives, with a consequent loss of identity in terms of the type of turpentine used as feedstock.

GREENHALGH (1982) estimated world production of all types of turpentine to be approximately 250,000 tonnes in 1979. Of this, about 110,000 tonnes was gum turpentine, most of the remainder being sulphate turpentine. COPPEN (1993) estimated annual production of gum turpentine from the seven major producers at 140,000 tonnes based on 1987-89 data (Table 12). Most recently, DAWSON (1994) has estimated total world production of turpentine at 335,000 tonnes, of which around 100,000 tonnes is believed to be gum turpentine.

The USA and the People's Republic of China are the world's largest producers and consumers of turpentine. Most American requirements are met by domestic sulphate turpentine production but gum turpentine is also imported for fractionation and conversion into derivatives. Chinese requirements are met by her own production of gum turpentine.

Japan, Western Europe (particularly France, which imports Portuguese turpentine for fractionation), India and some Latin American countries (Mexico and Brazil, for example) are all major consumers of turpentine, but many other countries import or use domestically produced turpentine to a greater or lesser degree. Small producers such as Kenya and Thailand consume all their turpentine (a hundred tonnes or so each) locally. Others, such as Indonesia, which produces around 6,000 tonnes pa, export a major part of their production.

Recent export of gum turpentine from Indonesia, and their destinations, are shown in Table 13. There are a large number of importing countries but India is by far the biggest importer - over 4,000 tonnes in 1992 and making up for her own declining production.

Any new producer, therefore, or, indeed, an existing one who is able to expand production, is likely to find a ready market. Importers and end-users of turpentine (and rosin) are always anxious to widen their supply base. In addition, there is usually an ample domestic market.

Supply sources

The largest producer of gum turpentine in the world is the People's Republic of China (Table 12), although most is consumed domestically and does not enter international trade.

Portugal accounts for the greater part of world trade in gum turpentine but volumes have decreased in recent years as a result of falling resin production. The estimate of 16,000 tonnes for Portuguese turpentine production given in Table 12 (1987-89 data) needs to be revised downwards by a significant amount to reflect current levels. Only around 20,000 tonnes of resin was produced in 1993, equivalent to about 4,000 tonnes of turpentine, although this is forecast to rise to 25-30,000 tonnes of resin in the 1994 crop year.

The decline in resin production in Portugal has been brought about by increasing labour costs and a growing unwillingness of people to undertake the arduous task of tapping pine trees. Countries other than Portugal have experienced the problem and the USA, France, Spain and several others, which were formerly very significant producers of gum turpentine (and rosin) from tapping operations, now produce either none or very little. Production in Mexico and India has also suffered.

In many other countries, however, production has either commenced (where none previously existed) or increased in recent years. The prime example of this is Indonesia, where resin production has increased dramatically over the last decade and it is now one of the world's largest producers. Gum turpentine exports from Indonesia increased from around 3,400 tonnes in 1988 to 7,200 tonnes in 1992 (Table 13). Brazil is also now a significant producer although most of its production of turpentine is consumed domestically. Argentina is another South American producer of gum turpentine.

Some other producing countries are noted below (see PLANT SOURCES) although for most of the smaller ones (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Thailand, Greece and Turkey) production is confined to meeting domestic needs rather than exports.

Quality and prices

An international (ISO) standard exists for "gum spirit of turpentine" but this is for turpentine intended for use in paints and varnishes.

Turpentine purchased by the chemical industry as a source of isolates for conversion to pine oil and fragrance and flavour compounds is assessed on the basis of its composition. The most versatile and widely used constituents of turpentine are alpha- and beta-pinene. Of these, the latter is the more valuable, although the former is usually more abundant. (The dependence of turpentine composition on the species of pine from which it is obtained is discussed in more detail below.)

A total pinene content of 90 percent or greater would be regarded as good, becoming excellent as the beta-pinene contribution increases above 30-40 percent. Portuguese, American and Brazilian turpentines are all high in pinenes. Anything much less than 70-80 percent pinene would be of limited value for derivative manufacture, at least if the turpentine were offered for sale on the international market. The presence of certain compounds in the turpentine lowers its value; the most common of these is 3-carene, which may comprise 50 percent or more of Indian turpentine.

Gum turpentine is traded in much higher volumes than other essential oils and is often imported direct from source by the end-user or fractionator. Prices are therefore subject to negotiation although they are very dependent on the quality (composition) of the turpentine: the greater the proportion of beta-pinene compared to alpha-pinene, the higher its value. The price of gum turpentine intended as a source of pinenes is also influenced by the price of sulphate turpentine and in the United States there has been an oversupply of this in the last year, leading to a softening of the market.

Where turpentine is intended for smaller, miscellaneous applications rather than fractionation, imports are usually made through dealers who specialize in naval stores. Prices are still dependent on the source and characteristics of the turpentine as well as the supply situation. A general shortage of turpentine in early 1989, for example, led to a sharp increase in the price of Portuguese turpentine (to about ?580/tonne FOB Lisbon). The price had fallen to around ?385/tonne FOT by mid-1991. In the last two years it has risen again to ?480 (mid-1992) and ?550/tonne FOB, early 1994 (= US$825 FOB or approximately US$920 CIF London).

By comparison, prices for Chinese and Indonesian turpentine in early 1994 were approximately US$640 and US$520 per tonne, respectively, on a CIF London basis. The higher price for Portuguese turpentine is due in part to its better quality, particularly the absence of 3-carene (which Indonesian turpentine contains), and part to the tightness of supplies following the fall in resin production in 1993. The price should ease somewhat if Portuguese resin production improves, as forecast, in 1994, although the longer-term trend is less certain.


While most pines yield resin of some sort upon tapping, the question of whether it is economic to do so depends on its quality and the quantities that are produced.

Those species of Pinus that are currently tapped, and the countries that are known to utilize them for this purpose, are listed below. Where tapping is solely or mainly carried out on natural stands, as distinct from plantations, this is indicated by (n).

Botanical/common names
Family Pinaceae:
Pinus elliottii Engelm.
(slash pine) 
USA, Brazil, South Africa, 
Zimbabwe, Kenya 
P. pinaster Aiton
(maritime pine) 
Portugal (n) 
P. massoniana D. Don
(Masson pine) 
People's Republic of China 
P. merkusii 
(Merkus pine) 
Indonesia, Thailand (n) 
P. caribaea Morelet
(Caribbean pine) 
South Africa, Kenya
P. roxburghii Sarg
(syn. P. longifolia Roxb.
ex Lambert) (chir pine) 
India (n), Pakistan (n) 
P. oocarpa Schiede  Mexico (n), Honduras (n) 
P. sylvestris L.
(Scots pine)
Former Soviet Union (n) 
P. radiata D. Don
(Monterey pine) 
P. halepensis Miller
(Alleppo pine) 
Greece (n) 
P. brutia Ten.  Turkey 

Description and distribution

Pines are coniferous species, native to many parts of Central and North America, Europe and Asia, and small areas of North Africa. At one point their natural distribution extends south of the Equator (P. merkusii in Sumatra, Indonesia). In addition, they are widely planted for timber and pulpwood and there are extensive plantations in Africa and South America (as well as elsewhere). Those species which are tapped include temperate and tropical ones and they may grow near sea level or at altitudes of 1,000 m or more. In some parts of the world, such as Mexico and Central America, mixed stands are tapped.

Recent research in South Africa and Brazil has demonstrated that some Pinus hybrids which have been developed for improved wood production also give enhanced resin yields. Crosses of P. elliottii x P. caribaea, one of the most promising hybrids, may therefore be the trees of choice for tapping in the future.

Effects of resin production on the natural resource

If done properly, and using methods which involve removal of bark only, tapping trees causes no damage whatsoever to them and they may be (and are) tapped for up to twenty years or more.

The absence of any adverse effects caused by tapping is demonstrated by the fact that plantation pines are tapped in many parts of the world. No loss in quality of the log is observed after felling, whether it is destined for timber or pulp production, and although there is some loss of volume increment during the period of tapping this is more than compensated for by the revenue earned from resin production.

Even more traditional methods of tapping which involve some removal of wood from the tree (see below) may not be damaging to its survival, and trees can be seen in the wild which show evidence of very old tapping scars but which are otherwise quite healthy. The risk of damage, however, is undoubtedly heightened by use of these methods and if wood is removed too deeply from the tree, or over too wide an area, then it will suffer.


Unlike tapping Boswellia and Commiphora species, which results in discrete, hard "tears" forming on the exposed surface of the tree which are then removed by hand (see OLIBANUM, MYRRH AND OPOPANAX RESINS), pine resin is collected in a manner more akin to rubber tapping. A cup and gutter system is installed on the tree into which the resin flows, albeit more slowly than rubber latex.

Over the course of many years, and in different countries, several different systems of tapping have evolved. It is now recognized that tapping, however it is done, should be carried out carefully and in such a way as to avoid permanent damage to the tree, and the older methods in which deep cuts were made into the tree have generally given way to those which involve removal of bark alone ("bark chipping"). In the case of plantation pines, the use of a particular style of tapping is also influenced by the fact that the tree is to be felled for saw timber or pulpwood. In this case it is common to tap fairly intensively, using a wide face, for four years or so prior to felling.

Traditional forms of tapping (practised in Indonesia, Thailand and India, for example) entail removing a 10 cm-wide sliver of wood from the tree in a vertical direction using a specially designed tool. Exposure of the resin ducts causes resin to flow down the tree and it is directed into the receiver by a small metal gutter. After a while, the resin ducts become sealed and the tapper has to re-visit the tree every 3-4 days to repeat the operation, gradually moving up the tree with each removal of wood. The resin is collected from the trees at regular intervals (but not necessarily at each visit by the tapper) and placed in drums which, when full, are taken to the factory for distillation.

If tapping is continued for the whole year, then the tapped portion of the tree will extend upwards approximately 60 cm, less for a shorter season. The cup and gutter are removed at the end of each season and replaced just above the face in preparation for the new season. Tapping continues up the tree as far as the tapper can comfortably reach, at which point it can commence again near the base of the tree and to one side of the original face (keeping a short distance between the two faces). In this way a tree may be tapped for 20 years or more.

The preferred method of tapping to the one just described entails only removal of bark and is practised in most of the major (and many minor) producing countries. After installation of a suitable cup and gutter system near the bottom of the tree a horizontal strip of bark 2-2.5 cm high is removed, just above the gutter. (In Brazil, a specially designed plastic bag is tied flush to the face of the tree to hold the resin and this eliminates the need for a cup and gutter.) A chemical formulation, either a spray or a paste in which sulphuric acid is usually the "active" ingredient, is then applied along the top edge of the exposed tissue.

The combination of bark removal and acid treatment makes it unnecessary to cut into the wood to open the resin ducts. Equally important, the acid maintains resin flow for a longer period of time than is the case in traditional methods of tapping and the task need not be repeated until 2-3 weeks later, the removal of bark being made above and adjacent to the first one. Labour requirements are, therefore, much reduced compared to tapping methods which do not involve acid treatment.

One aspect of the bark chipping method which gives rise to two slightly different versions is the width of bark which is removed. In the United States, Brazil, Zimbabwe and several other countries where even-aged plantation trees are utilized, tapping is intensive and bark removal extends across the diameter of the tree. In some other countries (Portugal and South Africa, for example), where a long tapping life is preferred over higher short-term yields, a narrow face is used and bark removal is limited to a width of 10 cm. This also enables a simpler system of guttering to be used.

Once it has arrived at the factory, the resin is steam distilled to furnish two co-products, turpentine and rosin. In contrast to direct distillation of plant tissue for essential oils, resin has to be cleaned before it goes into the still. Typically, crude resin comprises 70-75 percent rosin, 15-20 percent turpentine and 10 percent foreign matter (pine needles, bark, insects, etc) and rain water. After dilution of the resin with turpentine (from a previous distillation) insoluble material is removed first by filtration. Ideally, although it does not always take place, water-soluble impurities are then removed by washing the resin with hot water. The cleaned resin then passes to the distillation vessel where the turpentine is recovered. At the end of the distillation the hot, molten rosin which remains in the still is drained into drums or other suitable containers and set aside to cool and solidify.

Yields and quality variation

As an approximate guide, mean annual yields of resin should not be much less than 2 kg per tree if tapping is to be economically viable. Around 3 kg per tree is probably a realistic maximum of what one can expect.

This means that for an operation aimed at producing 1,000 tonnes of resin per year, 0.3-0.5 million trees are required. Distillation of this quantity of resin will produce approximately 650-700 tonnes of rosin and 150 tonnes of turpentine.

Intrinsic quality and yields of resin from the tree are both determined by genetic factors and so the species of Pinus that is tapped is crucial to the viability of any tapping operation and the marketability of the turpentine.

P. patula, for example, although widely planted as an exotic species in Africa and elsewhere, does not give good yields of resin and the quality of the turpentine and rosin is extremely poor. As a consequence it is not tapped anywhere in the world. A species such as P. elliottii on the other hand, which is also quite widely planted for timber, is tapped because it gives good quality resin and in reasonable yields. In Thailand, where natural stands of both P. merkusii and P. kesiya exist, only the former is tapped; yields of resin from P. kesiya are too low.

Although one can make some generalizations about the relative merits of different species of pine for tapping, resin yields and turpentine quality (chemical composition) can sometimes vary markedly within a species, according to provenance origin. In natural stands, therefore, it may be advantageous to tap trees only in certain areas (although in practice, providing yields are not impossibly low, and if the turpentine is to be used ultimately in whole form rather than as a source of isolates, all trees are usually tapped). In plantations, however, where there may be large-scale planting of a particular provenance, these differences can be important.

In the case of P. caribaea, a species with much potential for tapping, there are some differences in turpentine composition between the three varieties (var. caribaea, var. hondurensis and var. bahamensis). Resin yields for this species are, on the whole, higher than for P. elliottii, the usual yardstick by which performance is judged, although again there are varietal and provenance differences.

There can also be significant differences in resin yield and turpentine composition between individual trees within a provenance and this can be taken advantage of in breeding programmes aimed at improving the long-term performance of a plantation resource base.

In addition to genetic factors, resin yields are also influenced by climatic conditions. High ambient temperatures are conducive to good resin flow, while prolonged periods of rainfall are not, and the extent of seasonal changes will largely determine the period during the year when it is profitable to tap the trees. Altitude is important insofar as it affects temperature, and it may be that where trees are growing over a range of elevations, only those at the lower, warmer sites can be tapped.


If the volumes of turpentine being produced are sufficiently high (at least several hundreds of tonnes annually, and preferably much more), and the pinene content is also high, then fractionation and production of value-added derivatives can be considered. In most cases, however, a new producer of naval stores would look first to selling whole turpentine to established end-users or fractionators.


As explained earlier, rosin is always produced with the turpentine at the distillery and so plays a vital role in determining the overall viability of the gum naval stores operation. As with the turpentine, a new producer may be able to serve the domestic market or, if quality is acceptable, export it.

If plantation pines are tapped then the felled trees provide income from sale of the logs for timber or pulp.

Distillation of freshly cut foliage to yield pine needle oil is a possibility, although the market for this is rather specialized and its size is vastly smaller than for turpentine. It is not normally something that is undertaken at the same time as turpentine production.


Rising labour costs and decreased supplies of gum naval stores from traditional producers mean that there are opportunities for those countries with a standing resource of pine trees, either natural stands or plantations, who do not presently produce turpentine and rosin. Apart from domestic use or exports of turpentine (and rosin), there may be opportunities for a new producer for regional trade in crude resin. Many existing producers of gum naval stores (in Africa, for example) cannot obtain enough resin from domestic resources and would welcome supplementary supplies. In the first instance, therefore, a tapping operation with no processing might be an option.

The production of resin (and from it turpentine and rosin) by tapping brings with it many social and economic benefits. It:

- provides employment and income opportunities for people
in rural areas, including women;

- improves the profitability of primary forest activities
(when plantation pines are tapped) by co-production of
non-wood forest products;

- enables foreign exchange savings to be made through import

- and it may generate foreign exchange through exports.

Distillation of the resin, although necessarily conducted centrally (since small field stills of the type which might be used to distil plant material are not suitable) is still a technically simple operation and one that does not require sophisticated or hugely expensive equipment. The technology of processing is therefore not something that need constrain a potential producer in a developing country.

Research needs

Apart from the problems of labour availability, the shortage of resin in many parts of the world is caused by: (a) low yields of resin from trees which are tapped and/or (b) a shortage of suitable trees. Solutions to these problems will not come easily but research aimed at solving them should include the following:

- Improved tapping methodology. More needs to be done to learn how to optimise such variables as streak height, tapping frequency and acid concentration to suit local conditions. Studies should include investigation of modified formulations for the stimulant that is applied to the tree during tapping; "ethrel" is one example of an additive which has been found to enhance resin yields when added to the standard formulation, but it has not yet been evaluated under a wide enough range of conditions. By increasing productivity it may be possible to tap in areas previously not possible (e.g. at higher, cooler elevations).

- Species/provenance trials. There is still insufficient knowledge about the relative performances of different species or provenances in producing resin. Where trials exist which were established to test growth and wood characteristics, and where they are old enough to support tapping (ca 15-17 years minimum age), small-scale tapping trials should be set up.

- Investigation of the variability of resin properties within natural populations of pines. Identification of superior provenances (or individual trees within a provenance) and establishment of seed orchards will enable the quality and productivity of plantation pines to be improved in the longer term.


CLEMENTS, R.W. (1974) Manual of Modern Gum Naval Stores Methods. USDA Forest Service Southeastern Forest Experiment Station General Technical Report SE-7. 29 pp. Ashville, USA: USDA.

COPPEN, J.J.W. (1993) Pines and eucalypts - Sources of non-wood forest products in Africa. Paper presented at FAO/Commonwealth Science Council Regional Expert Consultation Meeting on Non-Wood Forest Products, Arusha, Tanzania, 17-22 October, 1993.

COPPEN, J.J.W., GAY, C., JAMES, D.J., ROBINSON, J.M. and MULLIN, L.J. (1993) Xylem resin composition and chemotaxonomy of three varieties of Pinus caribaea. Phytochemistry, 33, 1103-1111.

COPPEN, J.J.W., GAY, C., JAMES, D.J., ROBINSON, J.M. and SUPRIANA, N. (1993) Variability in xylem resin composition amongst natural populations of Indonesian Pinus merkusii. Phytochemistry, 33, 129-136.

COPPEN, J.J.W., GREEN, C.L., GREENHALGH, P., KEEBLE, B. and MILCHARD, M.J. (1985) The potential of some tropical pines as sources of marketable turpentine. pp. 138-147. In Proceedings of 9th International Congress on Essential Oils, Singapore, 13-17 March, 1983, Book 5. Singapore: Essential Oils Association of Singapore.

COPPEN, J.J.W., GREENHALGH, P. and SMITH, A.E. (1984) Gum Naval Stores. An Industrial Profile of Turpentine and Rosin Production from Pine Resin. TDRI Report G187. 40 pp. London: Tropical Development and Research Institute [now Chatham: Natural Resources Institute].

COPPEN, J.J.W. and ROBINSON, J.M. (1988) Terpenoid constituents and properties of xylem oleoresin from exotic Pinus radiata. Naval Stores Review, 98(2), 12-14.

COPPEN, J.J.W., ROBINSON, J.M. and MULLIN, L.J. (1988) Composition of xylem resin from five Mexican and Central American Pinus species growing in Zimbabwe. Phytochemistry, 27, 1731-1734.

DAWSON, F.A. (1994) The amazing terpenes. Naval Stores Review, 104(2), 6-12.

DERFER, J.M. (1978) Turpentine as a source of perfume and flavour materials. Perfumer and Flavorist, 3(1), 45-50.

FABER, J.A. (1988) Perfume from the tree - An update on turpentine derivatives as fragrance raw materials. Paper presented at 15th International Naval Stores Meeting, Lisbon, 10-13 October, 1988.

GREENHALGH, P. (1982) The Production, Marketing and Utilisation of Naval Stores. TPI Report G170. 117 pp. London: Tropical Products Institute [now Chatham: Natural Resources Institute].

McREYNOLDS, R.D., KOSSUTH, S.V. and CLEMENTS, R.W. (1989) Gum naval stores methodology. pp. 83-122. In Naval Stores. Production, Chemistry, Utilization. 1060 pp. Zinkel, D.F. and Russell, J. (eds). New York: Pulp Chemicals Association.

N. 10 : Traditional form of tapping practised in Indonesia,
Pinus merkusii [ J. Coppen, NRI ]

N. 11 : Tapping Pinus merkusii in Thailand, wich also involves
removal of wood from the tree [ J. Coppen, NRI ]

N. 12 : Tapped face of Pinus elliottii showing bark removal (wide
face), South Africa, [ J. Coppen, NRI ]

N.13 : Tapped face of pinus elliotii showing bark reoval ( narrow face),
South Africa [J.Coppen, NRI]

N. 14 : Tapping Pinus elliottii in Brazil illustrating use of plastic bags
for resin collection [ J. Coppen, NRI ]

N. 15 : Pinus Caribaea in third year of tapping, South Africa
[ J. Coppen, NRI]

N. 16 : Quality assessment: Collection of a sample of resin from
Pinus merkusii Thailand, [ J. Coppen, NRI ]

Table 12
Principal producers and production volumes of gum turpentine (and rosin)
140 000 
710 000 
Of which: 
China, People's Rep. Of 
78 000 
390 000 
Former Soviet Union 
17 000 
85 000 
16 000 
73 000 
8 000 
36 000 
6 000 
39 000 
6 000 
28 000 
4 000 
20 000 

Source: NRI, estimated using 1987-89 data

Table 13
Exports of gum turpentine from Indonesia, and destinations, 1988-92
Of which to: 
New Zealand 

Source: Indonesian national statistics

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