What’s life without sugar?

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Produce it, but do so efficiently.

Nearly all of us consume some amount of sugar every day. Though there are many substitutes, it’s hard to imagine the food-making process without sugar. Unfortunately, sugar production consumes large amounts of energy. This is required to extract the sweet stuff out of sugar cane and create perfect crystals. To reduce this energy consumption, it requires substantial effort as we need to select the right equipment and then optimize how it’s run.

I believe the answer lies in improving the efficiency of the large scale sugar centrifuges that are at the very heart of the sugar making process. This equipment has a decisive impact on the quality of the end product. Besides selection of the centrifuge itself – identifying the right motors, variable speed drives and control systems matter a lot.

I recently worked closely with one of our sugar industry customers on replacing old centrifuges with new ones. It took them, and us, a large number of iterations to arrive at the right “engine” – which is the electrical induction motors and variable speed drives for their new centrifuge system.

The selection of right motors and drives is important to achieving right acceleration and deceleration times for the rotation centrifuges. These, in turn, decide the number of cycle times that can be achieved by the system, which finally contribute to the capacity and efficiency of the sugar refinery.

But our efforts paid off. After fitting the new equipment, the actual results were convincing. Reaching energy consumption at the rate of 0.75 kWh per ton of massecuite meant a 22% reduction, compared to the older system. So, in conclusion, our efforts increased refinery capacity and reduced production costs to improve profitability.

If you look at the case from a wider perspective, it has also helped reduce energy consumption and carbon di-oxide emissions generated by one part of the food production process. I think this is one of those things that need to be done world over to achieve sustainable food processing.

The icing on our “sugary cake” was when we submitted this case last year to The Emirates Energy Awards committee for evaluation and they recognized us with a prize for both ABB and our customer, Al Khaleej Sugar. A sweet ending indeed to our efforts!

Categories and Tags
About the author

Aki Maenpaa

I've been with ABB since 1993 and held a number of roles in motors, drives and power electronics marketing and sales. Currently I am a local division manager based in the Southern Gulf and I'm responsible for ABB's Discrete Motion products and services offering in the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.
Comment on this article