In 2013 Fonterra Co-operative Group (Fonterra), the largest manufacturer of dairy products in New Zealand, required an increased yield of edible grade lactose from their existing lactose plant on the Clandeboye dairy factory site.
The most substantial challenge, given the novelty of the technology, was to achieve the target process performance, an increased plant product yield from a nominal 64 per cent to 76 per cent, without the use of any additional raw material.
Aurecon, engaged to design, engineer, and project manage the installation of a new lactose crystallising evaporator, delivered all project management, process, mechanical, structural, electrical and automation design work for the new evaporator, prepared contracts for the installation works and commissioned the completed plant.
Evaporation plant used in the lactose manufacturing process typically operates at high solids concentrations. These process conditions often result in significant fouling of evaporator heat transfer surfaces which necessitates regular cleaning and results in lost production time and the formation of small crystals in the downstream batch cooling crystallisation process.
Aurecon’s innovative design, which also incorporated features to improve lactose crystal growth, dramatically reduced heat transfer surface fouling. The novel design provides extended product run times, improved product yield, reduced water and chemical requirements for cleaning, lower product losses, and less wastewater generation than existing evaporator options.
The project increased the plant’s lactose manufacturing capacity by more than 25 per cent without using any additional raw material and enabled the recovery of lactose for incorporation in higher value export dairy products that previously Fonterra would have sold as a low value animal feed or spray irrigated on land.
The success of this project has established a new engineering standard and best practice for the production of lactose.
The project won the Food and Drink Award at the IChemE awards 2013.