A Thirsty Business
Producing milk, dairy beverages and liquid foodis a thirsty business. Not just for the millions who consume the products, but also in terms of resources, such as energy and water.
The dairy industry represents around 13% of Europe’s total food and drink sector and is one of the largest users of energy and water. Globally, agriculture accounts for 13.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, add processing to the equation and it is easy to appreciate the combined climate impact of food and beverage production.
Until recently, efforts to reduce emissions have focused mostly on the dairy farms and transport. Increasingly, however, thisfocus is widening to processing as dairy companies and food processors respond to consumers who want products to have as small a climate impact as possible.
The Quest for Energy Efficiency
In Britain, the UK Dairy Roadmap, an industry initiative, has raised industrial energy efficiency in dairy processing by 18% since 2008 and is targeting a 30% cut in carbon footprint by 2025.
Saving energy also creates savings in another area of prime importance: money.
“Reducing operating costs is a top priority for dairy producers in a highly competitive industry. Higher production and energy efficiency contributes to that,” says Lilly Li, Global Environmental Manager for Protecting Solutions and Equipment at Tetra Pak.
“Sustainability, in other words, is good not only for the planet but also for the bottom line. Li says there is a growing desire among dairy processors to reduce emissions – as a route both to greening their portfolio and boosting competitiveness. Most of the dairy producers we work with in the industry have quite ambitious targets for reducing their carbon dioxide emissions. Typically, they are looking to achieve decreases of 20% to 50%.”
Dairies in the Netherlands have perhaps gone further than in any other country in their search for sustainability. Jan Erik de Vries, Product Manager Key Components at Tetra Pak in the Netherlands, explains that back in 2008, all Dutch dairies signed the Clean and Economical Agriculture Sector Covenant and the national LTA3 agreement on energy efficiency.
“The objective of this agreement is to achieve an energy efficiency of 2% per year between 2005 and 2020,” he says.“Dairies focus on the reduction of greenhouse gases through energy efficiency, reuse of energy and sustainable energy generation. Generally, this is done by using efficient centrifugal pumps in combination with highly efficient motors, centrifuges with low pressure technology, heat recovery by water buffers and all kind of other initiatives to optimize plants.”
De Vries says these efforts are driven both by the Dutch government, but also by a desire among dairies to deliver to consumers products with a low environmental impact. He gives as an example the Dutch cooperative cheesemaker CONO Kaasmakers, whohave stated their aim to be the “greenest dairy in the world”. And they have put their money where their mouth is, investing more than €20m in a new plant featuring low-energy separators, among other equipment.
Every little helps
Separation is an area that processors can target for emissions reductions.A separator typically accounts for a small but significant share of the energy consumption in dairy processing.
In the long term, investing in a low-energy separator can generate significant efficiency gains, especially when accompanied by optimisation of other line equipment.
Specifically, it is in energy saving that hermetic separators come into their own. The airtight design of the separator, with the inlet at the bottom and the outlet at the top, cuts energy use by 20 percent compared to other separator designs.
When combined with EncaptTM technology, which lowers the atmospheric pressure around the spinning bowl using a low-pressure pump to reduce friction, the energy saving is an impressive 40 percent.
Jan Erik de Vries says, “Separators are not the most energy-intensive equipment in a dairy, but an energy-efficient separator can make a considerable difference to a dairy producers energy consumption.” With sustainable practice at the top of the agenda for consumers, separation represents another process where the combination of expertise and technology is offering producers an opportunity to realise their environmental goals.”
Product to product (P2P) heat exchangers are also typically used by dairy producers and can offer up to 50% improved energy efficiency compared to Product to Water (P2W) alternatives through lower steam and cooling water consumption. Designed to achieve optimum hygiene, Tetra Pak’s equipment is constructed with an innovative welding technique that eliminates crevices and potential hygiene blind spots, to achieve zero risk of bacteria aggregation.