It’s amazing the number of different processing systems we’ve encountered and built over the years, each designed with specific goals for process efficiency and quality of the end products. When assessing established oilseed processing operations, we often find processors have purchased machines from several different manufacturers to perform distinct functions.
Today’s manufacturers are highly focused on the needs of processors for precise, high-value equipment. Unfortunately, processors and their manufacturing partners do not always look at how these pieces of equipment need to operate together in a single, unified process. That’s where the team at Anderson International can help.
The first step in oilseed processing operations
Complete oilseed processing operations include equipment for seed cleaning, size reduction, heat treatment, pressing, oil screening and filtration, cooling and grinding of the Expeller® cake into meal, and material transport. Processors focused exclusively on upfront costs tend to neglect design and setup services, often opting to design the equipment layout on their own.
These machines, however, are interdependent and sometimes need to be customized for a specific application or seed type to create a cohesive process. If the processor does not account for the relationship between the machines and particular functions, massive inefficiencies can be built into the system, wasting both time and money, and leading to significant losses over the long run.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of how individual operations affect the entire system, and how machines must function in unison to produce quality oilseed end products:
What to know about upstream equipment
Three highly dependent operations within any oilseed extraction system involve a sequence of cleaning, size reduction, and heat treatment. In most systems, oilseeds are cleaned first to remove leaves, stems, sticks, and any foreign materials. Typically, processors use a series of vibrating or rotating screens, gravity “destoners,” and aspiration to remove these materials, along with fine screening for sand and dirt, and magnetic devices for any metal contaminants.
Removal of foreign material increases protein content, improves oil yields, protects downstream equipment, and reduces operating costs by assuring no energy is wasted downstream on transporting, heating, or crushing these waste materials.
Depending on the seed, the order, and type, the cleaning steps may vary greatly. For example, soybean, cottonseed, and sunflower all contain a protective hull, but they cannot be efficiently dehulled with the same equipment. Peanuts grow underground and naturally will contain a lot of stone contaminants when harvested, while coconut grows way up in the palm tree on sandy soil with sand being the primary contaminant arriving with the nut at the plant site.
The same equipment needed to remove sand will not work effectively to remove stones. Knowing the proper cleaning equipment is one thing, but knowing the proper order to maximize efficiency is another challenge altogether.
The goal is to organize these operations for maximum efficiency and oil yield while keeping contaminants and hull compounds out of the extracted oil. It’s not always as simple as it sounds.
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Case study: client increases system efficiency with drying step
On a recent client visit, a processor mentioned they were having issues with high moisture variation in their raw material. Based on our experience with similar types of operations, we recommended adding a dryer to their system for better front end moisture control. The client purchased the dryer directly from another manufacturer and installed it themselves.
When we visited the plant later in the year, the client mentioned the new dryer was helping their machines run more efficiently, but their protein solubility was excessively low. The reason: the dryer was installed in the wrong position. The product was staying too hot for too long prior to pressing. Because of the mistake with placement, they were degrading the product significantly and suffered through months of inefficient operations, costing them tens of thousands of dollars during that span.
When processing oilseeds, heat can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Most oilseeds don’t respond well to extreme heat since it causes proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to break down rapidly and can ultimately degrade end-product quality. But when applied correctly for the right amount of time for a particular seed, heat can make the difference between recovering 90% of the oil versus only 70%.
Our team at Anderson has set up processing lines for every seed type and end product, and we can show you how to use heat to gain efficiencies and increase yield without damaging your final products.
Skipping the recycle loop can cut into profits
The primary goal of processing is to extract as much oil as possible from the seed while consuming the least amount of energy. The process results in two end products: oil and the leftover solids, referred to as meal.
Expellers press product through a caged barrel cavity. Friction and continuous pressure compress the seed material and force the non-compressible oil through small openings in the drainage barrel. The remaining seed material forms into a dense, hardened Expeller cake, which is removed from the machine.
Pressing is never a perfectly clean recovery. While the goal of the drainage barrel is to allow the liquid out and keep the solids in the barrel, a small amount of solids always escapes with the oil. The recovered oil must then go through a straining and filtering process to remove the solids that escape with it.
Here is where recycling can be used to the processor’s advantage. Most processors add the filtered and strained solids to the meal end product. These solids, however, contain over 50% oil in acquired weight. The remaining oil in the strained material is two to four times more valuable than the meal itself.
Why add these solids to the meal when it can easily be recycled to recover the remaining oil? Most processors tell us recycling is too hard and not worth the effort. But we’ve proven, over many years, processors adding this important recycling step to their overall system helps them maximize oil yield and can increase profitability. We can show you how recycling fits into your specific process without curbing press operation.
Read more: Why the Recycle Loop Matters
What to know about downstream equiptment
When cake exits the Expeller, it is extremely hot and must be cooled quickly to preserve the good proteins and allow for safe storage. In a cooler, air is drawn into the system and passes across the evenly distributed product. When the Expeller cake meets the air ﬂow, heat and water vapor are exchanged, cooling the product by degrees as it progresses through the machine. The irregular shaped Expeller cake is then ground into a meal via a hammermill, and the finished product is ready for storage.
A recent visit to a plant revealed the client had placed their hammermill in a position to grind Expeller cake before entering the cooler. As a result, they were pushing air through the finely-ground material, and it was being drawn up, like dust, into the air system and overloading the air stream. Then they had to spend time recycling the product pulled into the air system and placing it back into the product stream, creating a considerable inefficiency.
Time is money in oilseed processing operations. Processors focus extensively on eliminating downtime to ensure profitability. But inefficiencies, like placing equipment in the wrong sequence, can significantly affect the bottom line, as well. Anderson provides processing expertise to solve these types of challenges and help clients achieve outstanding results.
Read more: The Right Way to Handle Solids Downstream
The Anderson difference
Although the sequence of oilseed processing operations varies by seed type, the steps are highly interdependent and make up a single, complex system. Ultimately, beyond choosing the most efficient machines for each step in the sequence, processors must optimize the entire system for their specific seed type and location.
Our team at Anderson has designed, manufactured, and commissioned processing equipment installed in over 1,000 plants in more than 100 countries, to process over 100 different materials. We have more than 130 years of processing experience, bringing clients processing expertise, durable extraction equipment, and replacement parts, custom designs and metallurgies, total plant layout and installation supervision, and the training required to maximize oil extraction and quality, and increase protein (and add value) in the meal.
When it comes to producing superior oilseed products and creating value your customers demand, sometimes it’s not individual machines or operations causing headaches for plant managers, but unrecognized problems in the overall process that a partner like Anderson can help diagnose and solve.
To learn more about how we can optimize your system for high yield and high profits, contact us today.