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Electrification in the food industry Iv-Industrie

Electrification in the food industry

A dehumidifier that has reached the end of its technical life must be replaced. But should a dehumidification method using steam be chosen again, or can a more sustainable choice be made? For the RTAD (Renovation Transport Air Dairy) project, FrieslandCampina in Veghel opted for the latter. A fully electrical dehumidification installation was chosen for this pilot project. Bas Derissen, Project Manager at FrieslandCampina and Ben Nissen, Lead Engineer EI&A at Iv-Industrie tell us more about the project.

Transporting with air

Bas explains: “In Veghel, FrieslandCampina produces ingredients for the food and pharmaceutical industries. For this, the various components of milk, such as proteins and lactose (milk sugar) are separated and later dried to form powders, which is important for optimising shelf life. Air is used to transport the powders from one location to another in the factory. Transporting the powders in this way is only possible with very dry air as the products are highly hygroscopic (meaning that the powders absorb a lot of moisture from the surrounding environment). If the powders are not dry enough, not only can this cause blockages in the pipes but can also shorten the shelf life of the product. This is why special dehumidifiers are necessary to dehumidify the air that transports the powders. The existing dehumidifier, used for Food and Feed - two different production environments, was approaching the end of its lifespan and needed to be replaced. It was desirable to make a division and install two new dehumidifiers. When selecting the new installations, we were faced with the dilemma: should we use steam again, as is standard, or can we do it differently?” Ben adds: “When we were selecting a new dryer, FrieslandCampina’s objective of significantly reducing CO2 emissions by 2030 was also taken into consideration. Eventually, it was decided to use this project as a pilot project and opt for electric dehumidification.”

We are at the beginning of the energy transition

Production processes are often very complex, which is why making these processes more sustainable gradually takes place in steps. Bas explains: “We opted for electrification for these dehumidification installations as FrieslandCampina makes use of green electricity, which also contributes to a reduction in CO2 emissions. Saving energy is, of course, also important for further steps in increasing sustainability.” Ben adds: “Besides electrification, we also examined using a heat pump for recovering heat, which is currently still very challenging on this kind of scale. However, it’s a step that must be taken eventually, as the energy consumption for the production processes is considerably high. The infrastructure was one of the reasons why a heat pump is not currently used. The space required in the building was not available, and the roof, on which the pump would need to be placed, was not suitable.”

Bas: “There are still plenty of challenges ahead. Milk consists of approximately 87% water, and for the production of the dry ingredients, we have to remove this water. This separation is performed as efficiently as possible: with centrifugation and membrane processes, but the final steps are always evaporation and drying, and these processes require a lot of energy. Technically, this is feasible to do electrically on a small scale, but not yet on an industrial scale.” Ben explains: “A drying tower works like this; the milk is sprayed very finely under pressure in a large drying chamber, into which hot air is also blown. As the drops descend, the water evaporates, and the dried product remains at the bottom of the drying chamber. Evaporating water consumes a lot of energy. In the future, this will be a mixture of energy recovery, heat pumps, electricity and probably still gas. A combination of smarter energy and technology is needed. The last step in the decision process is the type of energy that will eventually be applied.”

Hygiene during a renovation

Renovating a production process is always a challenge, especially during this project. Bas explains how this was done: “We installed a temporary system outside, while we were working inside where the old installation was located. The construction area was completely shielded from the rest of the production facility and was accessed separately via a new outside door. Health, safety, and hygiene are essential for FrieslandCampina, also during a renovation. So, everything that went inside had to be disinfected, even the people who were working there had to get changed at the entrance of the building. The temporary system had less capacity than the final one, which is why the work needed to be completed during the winter and spring months. The air contains much more moisture in the summertime, which would require the complete installation”. Ben adds: “We are replacing one installation with two new ones, which has a number of advantages. Previously, when maintenance was required, a total of six different drying towers would have to be shut down. This is no longer necessary as these have now been divided. The conditions for which the transport air must comply for the Feed and Food processes also vary as different types of powder transport are supported. Only 20% of the total amount of transport air now has to comply with the highest level of dehumidification, and this makes a huge difference in energy consumption.”

Just in time

“There was still a huge challenge”, says Bas. “We were in the preparatory phase of this project, had everything on paper… when all of a sudden, the existing installation stopped! Which meant that everything had to be wrapped up much faster. We had to arrange the temporary system very quickly. We called the supplier at noon, and the next day there were already containers with equipment ready at the location. Fortunately, we were already busy with the replacement, and the project team was complete, so we were able to get started quickly. It was a particularly hectic begin to the project!”  

Less CO2 emissions, high priority
For Iv-Industrie and FrieslandCampina, making processes more sustainable is a logical step which is in line with the vision of both companies. Reducing CO2 emissions is of paramount importance, and both companies are also striving to achieve this. For example, there are projects whereby the cattle sheds of the dairy farmers are fitted with solar panels, and FrieslandCampina uses the energy generated by these.This replacement project is entirely in line with the desire to eventually stop using natural gas and therefore no longer run production processes with steam.

As a result, the choice of supplier was limited, as not all suppliers can supply an electrical dehumidification installation on this scale. The installation has been in use for about a year now, and the results are positive. Ben: “Apart from the fact that the installation is electric, much less energy is now being consumed. This is due to the further development of process technology. In the current setting, there is a broader range of options in terms of regulation. In the old set-up, the drying system was continuously running, but this is regulated much better now. As a result, the air quality is much more constant, and the production quality can also be managed better”. Furthermore, the entire process is now more sustainable; it runs only on green electricity, generated from FrieslandCampina’s dairy farmers, and purchased from energy suppliers. This project was a pilot project, but there are now other replacement projects for process air installations that will be carried out electrically. Heat pumps and other technologies will also be examined for taking further steps in increasing sustainability. Iv-Industrie is proud of its significant contribution in improving the sustainability of production processes.
Would you like to know more about this project? Dick will be pleased to tell you more. Contact Dick via 088 943 3777 or send an email.
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