Planting a seed
How vertical plate conditioners are providing new opportunities for oilseeds processors
Author: Jamie Zachary
Global demand for vegetable oils and biofuels, coupled with changes in meal utilization, is expected to evolve significantly within the next decade.
A recent OECD report forecasts global oilseeds product to expand through to 2027, albeit at a slower pace than the past decade. Yet demand for oils and meal (specifically protein meal), is expected to increase at a higher rate with 91 per cent of world soybean production and 87 per cent of other oilseeds production projected to be crushed within the next several years.
This increasing demand provides the opportunity for processors to optimize the conditioning phase of the warm dehulling process to meet future demand, says Stan Pala, Global Sales Director, Oilseeds for Solex Thermal Science.
“Conditioning oilseeds such as soybean, canola, rapeseed and sunflower seed has traditionally been an energy-intensive process that cuts heavily into margins,” he says. “And it’s been compounded by traditional machinery that requires significant and often costly infrastructure upgrades before being able to handle increased capacity.
“The good news is proven technology in the form of vertical plate conditioners are giving industry players that upstream solution to seamlessly increase capacity, reduce energy consumption and optimally condition seeds prior to extraction.”
What are vertical plate conditioners?
The vertical plate conditioner (VPC) provides an indirect heat transfer solution that dually heats and removes moisture of oilseeds within a welded plate-channel design. The product flows by gravity between banks of stainless-steel plates while a warming fluid flows through the plates in a counter-current direction to heat the solids by conduction.
At the bottom of the conditioner sits a mass flow discharge feeder that creates uniform mass flow, regulates flow rate and minimizes abrasion due to low product velocity.
“One of the many benefits to the VPC is that because of its modular plate design, it can condition more product in the same amount of space,” says Pala, noting the proprietary indirect plate heat exchange technology developed by Solex in these units has been around for more than 30 years.
For example, a standard unit measuring 3.3 x 3.3 metres (10 x 10 feet) and one metre (3.3 feet) high can offer about 420 square metres of heat transfer area, compared with about half for traditional tube heating technology. In addition, the more intimate contact between the seed and the heat transfer surface amplifies the advantage.
“Being able to handle more product in an existing space is important for plants that are looking to increase production capacity without having to also undertake significant installation costs,” says Pala. “You cannot install more tubes into the same area; they would have to occupy additional space.”
Reduced steam consumption = improved payback
The larger heat area and improved heat transfer offered with the VPC has the auxiliary benefit of being able to convert low-grade energy that would otherwise go to waste. Heat energy from later in the oil extraction process can be brought back into the conditioner and used to prep the next batch of seeds.
“The VPC also allows for a wider range of input mediums, including steam, condensate or hot water — allowing for energy savings,” adds Pala, adding that to maximize the efficiencies, the heat recovery process also needs a low flowrate within that loop – something ideal suited to plate designs.
By more efficiently using steam and adding a waste heat recovery loop, plant operators can significantly reduce overall energy consumption, notes Pala. In the example of a soy plant with 125 TPH processing capacity, adding a single vertical plate conditioner module with a waste heat stream at 90 C can reduce annual steam consumption by more than 10,000 tonnes.
If waste heat at only 70 C is available, steam savings of more than 5,000 tonnes per year are still possible.
Given the above and assuming a steam cost of $20 US per tonne, plants can expect to save more than $100,000 US per year for each module that they install – with standard VPCs containing multiple modules that will run on a combination of heat recovery and steam.
Did you know?
In addition to the VPC, Solex also offers the option for an independent heating module that provides oilseeds processors with an inexpensive retrofit solution to replace outdated tube-designed equipment – and still provide the benefits of a full conditioner.
Learn more about Solex’s full suite of oilseeds conditioning solutions by contacting a Solex team member today.
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