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Sustainable meals processing gives path via the power disaster

Sustainable meals processing gives path via the power disaster

Meals manufacturing accounts for an estimated 30% of worldwide power consumption, with round 70% of that being consumed after the farm. Sustainability targets have already made lowering power consumption a precedence for the meals trade. Now, hovering power prices are including financial urgency to that drive.

René Floris, Meals Analysis Division Supervisor at NIZO and member of the FoodNavigator Advisory Panel, asks Luanga Nchari, senior scientist in meals course of optimisation at NIZO, why meals processing consumes a lot power and the way important power financial savings could be achieved.

René Floris: Why does meals processing consumes a lot power?

Luanga Nchari: The meals processing trade wants power for heating and cooling meals, in addition to to energy the large items of kit wanted to supply meals on an industrial scale. However essentially the most power intensive meals merchandise are those who require thermal processes – for instance powders and fried meals. Drying, particularly, makes use of a variety of power. For instance, a typical spray dryer makes use of tens of megajoules per kilogram of product.

RF: So, we will lower power consumption by discovering alternate options to spray drying?

LN: Actually, some industries are taking a look at changing spray drying with much less energy-intensive alternate options like drum drying. But it surely isn’t fairly so simple as that. Spray drying is common within the trade because it produces powders with superb performance and meals product producers are used to the efficiency you get with spray-dried components. Changing spray drying fully may imply hundreds of merchandise would should be reformulated and new processes developed – and that might take a very long time to have an effect on general power consumption.

Nonetheless, spray drying is​ one of the vital energy-intensive processing steps – and there are probably massive financial savings to be made by enhancing its power effectivity.

Sustainable meals processing gives path via the power disaster

Determine 1: Vitality consumed to supply dairy merchandise (left) and power produced to course of fruit and veggies (proper). (Developments in Meals Science & Expertise, 2019). Picture supply: NIZO

RF: How will we make spray drying extra power environment friendly?

LN: In a meals manufacturing course of, spray dryers are fed with a liquid that comprises strong matter. The upper the focus of solids within the feed liquid the much less work the spray dryer has to do. The focus of solids could be simply elevated via evaporation, which is already a standard step in lots of meals manufacturing processes. As spray dryers use round 10 to twenty instances as a lot power as evaporators to take away the identical quantity of water, there’s potential for very important power financial savings. And, because the powder remains to be in the end spray dried, it nonetheless has the identical performance which limits the necessity the modifications additional down the stream.

NIZO has examined this concept in our personal pilot plant, and the outcomes look very promising. In a typical course of for producing dairy powders, growing the proportion of solids within the spray dryer feed from 50% (widespread apply within the dairy trade) to 55% lowered the general power consumption by 16%. On the identical time, it elevated the capability of the method by round 20%.

RF: Are there limits to how far you possibly can take this method?

LN: Rising the quantity of strong matter within the liquid feed will improve its viscosity, which may improve the prospect of blockages within the spray dryer nozzles. Nonetheless, for dairy powders, I feel it needs to be potential to push ranges of solids as much as no less than 60% with out too many viscosity points – which may deliver very substantial power financial savings.

The image is a extra sophisticated for plant-based components as plant proteins are sometimes a lot much less soluble than animal proteins. Because of this, feed liquids for plant protein components develop into extra viscous at a lot decrease concentrations of strong matter and are sometimes restricted to round 15-20% strong matter earlier than blockages develop into an issue. 

RF: What, then, are the choices for extra energy-efficient plant-based components?

LN: Plant-based ingredient producers can entry the power financial savings that include greater solids ranges in sprayer dryer feeds if they’ll discover methods to beat the viscosity points. Cautious choice and design of extraction methods and processing steps previous to drying can have a huge impact on viscosity. For instance, for some plant proteins, altering from acid precipitation to ultrafiltration can improve the extent of solids by 8% whereas protecting the viscosity the identical.

Nonetheless, there aren’t any “one measurement suits all” options right here: an extraction method or processing step that reduces viscosity in a single ingredient could not have the identical impact in one other. So, every case must be explored individually and, with the large potential for interplay between processing steps, sturdy course of modelling is a invaluable device. Modelling lets you check out modifications and see their impression with out slowing down manufacturing, and with the correct instruments you possibly can even optimise entire processes for power consumption.

There are additionally technological options that might be used to scale back the viscosity of spray dryer feeds. One such choice is ultrasound. Our analysis at NIZO has proven that passing a small quantity of ultrasound power via the feed liquid simply earlier than it enters the spray dryer nozzle quickly reduces the viscosity, permitting strong ranges to be elevated by round 3% with out blocking the nozzles. That might scale back general power consumption by round 6-10%. Mix that with optimised pre-drying processing, and the potential power financial savings develop into very important.

Figure 2 FoodNavigator column September 2022

Determine 2: Viscosity discount in processing by use of ultrasound ends in power discount. Picture supply: NIZO

RF: Are there different areas the place the meals processing trade can save power?

LN: In fact, it’s potential to tweak nearly each course of in meals manufacturing to chop power consumption. But it surely isn’t all the time clear if the advantages of all that effort might be worthwhile. That is one other space the place course of modelling is beneficial: figuring out which modifications will deliver the largest power financial savings with out harming the general efficiency of the method.

One space that’s usually neglected, although, is the cleansing of course of strains. Course of cleansing sometimes consumes as much as 10% of the general power price range for a course of. Nonetheless, pushed by an comprehensible “security first” mentality, most cleansing plans for meals manufacturing strains are too intensive and intensive – resulting in pointless manufacturing stoppages in addition to extra power and water utilization. In a single instance, by utilizing sensors and reorganising the cleansing course of, we discovered that cleansing time might be lowered by round 4 hours – basically halving the cleansing time whereas reaching the identical efficiency when it comes to fouling elimination. That exhibits huge potential for power financial savings whereas additionally growing uptime and, therefore, potential turnover.

The meals trade is a serious shopper of power and lowering the trade’s power consumption long-term is an important step in making a extra sustainable meals chain. With power costs already worryingly excessive – and predicted by many to rise even additional – the economics of the trade are altering, and firms want to deal with their power consumption as a matter of enterprise survival, accelerating the transition to larger power effectivity.


In our subsequent article, we are going to have a look at developments within the discipline of meat replacements.


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