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Setting a new benchmark in lactose manufacturing

Setting a new benchmark in lactose manufacturing

Innovative modifications to processes can improve productivity, helping producers and manufacturers succeed in a challenging global environment.

Rising energy costs, competition from emerging economies such as China, and tighter environmental controls, are driving manufacturers to seek fresh ways to increase efficiency and reduce waste.

Paul Stephenson, Expertise Leader, Manufacturing at Aurecon, discusses how a technically innovative lactose evaporation and crystallisation plant design has set a new benchmark in lactose manufacturing. The state-of-the-art technology delivers maximum production along with significant financial benefits.

A billion dollar market

Demand from end-use industries such as food, beverages, confectionery, pharmaceuticals and animal feed has seen the global lactose market develop into a billion dollar industry.

Typical lactose manufacturing processes result in significant fouling of evaporator heat transfer surfaces, which necessitates regular cleaning, leading to lost production time.

Aurecon, together with Fonterra, the world's largest exporter of dairy products, developed an innovative lactose evaporation system designed to minimise fouling and increase production.

Product yield up 25%

Traditionally crystallisation begins in batch cooling crystallisers. Taking a fresh approach, Aurecon’s design commences crystallisation during the evaporation process.

The evaporator controls crystal growth at high total solids concentrations, which increases product yield and promotes stable operation in downstream processing equipment. Lactose product yield in the new process typically increases from 64 per cent to at least 80 per cent.

Greater product yield provides more lactose from the same volume of permeate raw material, less by-product mother liquor and a higher return on investment.

The mother liquor is sold as a low-cost animal feed; meaning the increased yield in the process generates more lactose available for sale at a higher value, for use in more valuable food products.

Aurecon successfully implemented the system at Fonterra’s Hautapu Dairy Factory, located near Hamilton in New Zealand, achieving an increase in product yield of 25 per cent.

Extended product run times

Evaporator cleaning can reduce plant availability by up to three hours a day. In general a lactose evaporator on-product run time is approximately18 hours. Aurecon’s system design reduces the number of CIP (Cleaning-in-Place) regimes required per unit of lactose production. The new evaporator in the Hautapu plant can run for two weeks between CIPs.

Less cleaning is good for the environment as there is a reduced need for water and chemicals during the manufacturing process. It also allows the plant to be operational for longer periods, increasing its production capacity.

The new evaporation process has increased the plant capacity at the Hautapu site by 2 100 tonnes per year. Following this success, Fonterra installed a new lactose crystallising evaporator on the Clandeboye dairy factory site.

The technology has patent pending status.

Partnering with Fonterra, Aurecon is taking the innovative new CrystaLac technology to the world, with the first plant installation having taken place in a dairy factory in the United States. A second plant is currently being commissioned in a dairy processing facility in The Netherlands and a third plant is under construction in a dairy factory in Germany. Together these three plants will have the capacity to manufacture over 120 000 tonnes of lactose a year.

About Paul Stephenson

Paul Stephenson, Aurecon’s Expertise Leader, Manufacturing, has over 35 years of experience in the design and management of projects in the dairy, food, minerals, forestry and pharmaceutical industries.

Paul has worked for multinational companies such as Monsanto and was a founding director of a medium-sized consulting engineering practice for over 20 years. He has particular interests in the development of new processes and the management of projects through pilot trials to full scale implementation.

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