GEA establishes high performance spray dryer in Fonterra plant
GEA, one of the largest suppliers of processing technology for the global dairy and food industry, has installed a high performance spray dryer as the centerpiece of Fonterra's new milk powder plant in Lichfield, New Zealand.
GEA developed the best performing and the most efficient spray dryer currently available in the market, the company said. With the capacity of 30 tonnes of milk powder per hour, it can process nearly 4.4 million liters of milk per day. This volume corresponds to 165 truckloads. On September 5, 2016, Fonterra started the production process, which is now being gradually expanded to round-the-clock operation.
GEA was responsible for the complete turnkey milk powder plant and provided all of the processing technology – from acceptance of the tanker to evaporation, drying and powder handling to packaging. The plant's drying chamber weighs about 200 tonnes with the diameter of 18 meters. During assembly, it was lifted 34 meters above the roof of the building and had to be placed precisely within the building.
The spray dryer is the second of the kind, built by GEA. Its sister plant Darfield II, also operated by Fonterra in New Zealand, has been producing reliably high-quality powdered milk since December 2013. For Lichfield, GEA experts developed several innovations, which simplify the processes on-site and reduce the total cost of ownership. In particular, energy efficiency was a key focus for the project team. For instance, the plant requires very little process water as the evaporator condensate is filtered through the membrane of a high-pressure reverse osmosis system and, due to the GEA technology, this water can be re-used during processing. As a result, Fonterra is required to maintain much less wastewater treatment capacity at the site. By focusing on overall equipment efficiency, energy consumption and waste minimisation, the completed milk processing plant is one of the most efficient in the industry.
Fonterra's chief operating officer Robert Spurway points out the strategic importance of powder production to the co-operative's overall asset mix: "Premium milk powder is a valuable product for us. The capacity the new Lichfield plant takes the pressure off during the peak of the season, meaning we have more freedom to prioritise milk into higher returning products." Fonterra will export the premium milk powder from Lichfield to as many as 20 markets, including the Middle East, China and South-East Asia. The official opening of the milk processing plant in Lichfield is scheduled for December 2016.
"Highly-productive and efficient spray dryers, such as the one in Lichfield, play a decisive role in the industry", Clint Brown, who is in charge of the GEA operation in New Zealand, said. "The demand for milk in the expanding markets, such as China, can only be met by easily transportable and stable milk powder. This is processed regionally into various dairy products with the help of other GEA technologies". To this purpose, GEA experts plan, construct and deliver complete systems and components for production, process cooling, drying, filling and packaging of dairy products.