THE BEET’S TECHNOLOGICAL QUALITY
As a result of changing underlying economic circumstances, there is an interest in Austria in being able to predict the technological quality of stored beet as accurately as possible in the future. Tests started back in 2009 have so far shown that, of various established models, only the one that takes the beet’s invert sugar content into account as well as the so-called ‘refractometer model’ were able to clearly react to the stored beet material. Whilst the former requires the rather complex determination of the invert sugar content in addition to the standard parameters of sugar, potassium, sodium and alpha-amino nitrogen, the ‘refractometer model’, which was presented in its first form in the 1990s, uses only the sugar content and dry substance content of the digestate used for sugar determination, a process that is also used when assessing sugar cane.
It was possible to correct an initial parallel shift in the calculated thick juice purities by recalculating the formula’s factors. See under Publications.
The so-called ‘new refractometer formula’, as it was subsequently used for comparison with other formulas, is now:
fDiS = 4,668 * (wTS, Al-Filtrat / wZ, R) + 0,375 - 1
QDiS = 1 / (fDis + 1) * 100
The following graph shows a comparison of the different calculation formulas. The basis for the comparison was beet material obtained from so-called variety trials, which was stored before processing. In addition to determining analytical parameters such as sugar content, potassium, sodium, alpha-amino nitrogen, the beet digestate’s invert sugar and dry substance content, the material was reduced down to thin juice on a laboratory scale. The purity quotient determined in the thin juice was used to assess the results of the different formulas. The results are shown in the following diagram.
You can clearly see that only the formulas where the invert sugar content is taken into account (‘components formula’ and ‘new refractometer formula’) realistically reflect the quality of the stored beet material. However, the analytical work required to determine the dry substance content in the digestate is much less than that required to determine the invert sugar content. We are working on practically implementing these findings.
You can find more information on this topic in the articles listed under Publications.
Due to economic changes over the last decade within the European sugar industry, most producers are being confronted with longer processing campaigns. These pose particular challenges in terms of the technologies used.
This is why several process stages, especially those relating to juice purification, have been optimised at AGRANA’s Austrian sugar factories over the last few years based on ARIC’s initiative. These optimisations include the development of an automated process to determine the optimum flocculation point, the optimum dosage of the alkalising agent, caustic soda, as well as the use of freshly precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) and the enzyme dextranase. These are largely measures designed to improve the filterability of juices in juice purification and therefore maintain a high processing capacity.
MEASUREMENT AND IMAGE ANALYSIS SYSTEMS
Furthermore, measuring systems have been tested that are designed to enable the objective identification of deteriorated beets and thus aid the implementation of the aforementioned measures on an event-driven basis. Of the systems tested, an image analysis system to identify darkly coloured beet stood out due to its robustness and low maintenance. Similarly, a flame ionisation detector, which identifies volatile organic acids, excelled due to its high sensitivity. The figure below shows measurements for both systems from the end phase of the 2013/14 campaign as well as the corresponding pressure on the filter during juice purification. As a result of the good beet quality practically until the end of the campaign, the signals only exceeded the prescribed limits in a few cases. The filter pressure was also at the lower end of the range.
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White sugar quality assurance
Meeting high customer expectations with internationally recognized methods of ICUMSA
White sugar quality assurance
The Sugar Technology department’s activities in this segment serve to safeguard the quality of white sugar in the AGRANA Group and support the AGRANA Sugar Division in its efforts to optimally meet high client expectations. This is done as part of the AGRANA-wide monitoring programmes that run throughout the year, cross-check analyses during the sugar beet campaign in Austria, the organisation of AGRANA-wide ring trials and participation in international ring trials, as for example organised within the Südzucker Group.
The white sugar produced from the sugar beet, and in the course of raw cane sugar being refined, is analysed during these activities to determine important quality parameters such as colour in solution, turbidity, conductivity ash, colour type, SO2 content, heavy metals and the potential to form floc, which is particularly important to the drinks industry. The ICUMSA (http://www.icumsa.org/) internationally recognised methods are used here, wherever possible.
The quality of the beet is particularly important in order to achieve an optimum result. Given the limited shelf life of the beet, it can only be processed within a certain period of time (campaign), the ideal length of which also significantly contributes to the economic efficiency of sugar production. It is becoming increasingly important to monitor the quality of white sugar, and the by-products resulting from sugar production, by means of monitoring programmes in order to meet the ever growing number of requirements.
ADVANCED ANALYSIS OF KEY PRODUCTS
To this end, there are fixed arrangements for sugar factories based in Austria, such as the advanced analysis of key products from sugar production as well as information platforms such as the ‘ARIC March conference’, the plant discussion rounds in May and the pre-campaign discussion in September. In addition, the Sugar Technology department takes part in the annual AGRANA Sugar Division workshops in order to share experience and information, and addresses current issues.
ANALYSIS INCLUDING ATTESTATION AND FOUNDING
The Sugar Technology department at the AGRANA Research & Innovation Center also offers to carry out a whole variety of different analyses for external clients, including certification and diagnosis of results at market rates. The focus here is on the quality testing of white sugar – from the usual analysis of the EC points to determining the turbidity, as well as from testing floc properties and filterability to heavy metals – and molasses.
EMPLOYMENT IN WORKGROUP (COCS)
There is also a need to get involved in tackling current problems faced by the AGRANA Group from time to time. In addition to the experience gained over several decades, the department’s outstanding analytical skills can also be useful here. The services provided also include involvement in working groups (CoCs) within the Südzucker Group.
ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY AND ENERGY SAVING PROCEDURES
The main aim of the work is to develop new, environmentally-friendly and energy-saving processes and process steps. In addition, it also provides services in application technology, process optimisation and diagnostics for clients.
HIGHLY QUALIFIED EMPLOYEES
The department’s staff are members of national and international professional committees (FZÖ, VDZ, ICUMSA, ESST, IIRB) and contribute to a wide range of conferences. The pooled experience is also disseminated through internal courses and lectures (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna; FH Wiener Neustadt; Campus Tulln).
Sugar technology is a separation technology
Sugar technology is a separation technology in which the sugar beet’s ingredients are separated into the main product of crystalline white sugar and various by-products in the feed and fertiliser segment, mainly pellets, molasses and carbolime.
From an economic perspective, this should be done with no losses as far as possible and with minimal consumption of energy and process materials.