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7 Energy efficiency strategies for the food and beverage processing industry

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In the current scenario, food and beverage processing plants are often the large users of energy for various purposes, such as refrigeration, cooking, heating, boilers and steam generation, sterilizing, conveyors, and auxiliary equipment. Considerable energy savings can be achieved through the implementation of a variety of energy efficiency strategies. Some of them are covered in this article.

Optimizing existing equipments in manufacturing

Existing equipments can be monitored with real-time process data and benchmarked to identify opportunities to reduce energy demand, from optimizing equipment performance, minimizing heat gains and losses, optimizing the conditions under which equipment operates, and shutting down equipment when it is not required.

Install effective metering and monitoring to improve data analysis

Understanding how energy is used within the industry is a key starting point. Effective energy metering and monitoring capabilities need to be installed at the process level to develop accurate modeling of energy and material flows, to identify and evaluate the most cost-effective methods. It will facilitate benchmarking of current energy use and identifying new energy efficiency opportunities.

For instance, a food processing company installed energy monitoring equipment at its site at a cost of 8000 EUR. Monitoring the electrical energy use in each processing section led to the reprogramming of chillers to increase their efficiency. This saved 377 MWh of electricity, reduced CO2 emissions of 460 tonnes, and saves 18,800 EUR per year. The monitoring equipment paid for itself within six months.

Ensure effective shutdown procedures to minimize energy overheads

Most food and beverage processing plants have energy overheads that lead to heat being lost even when the plant is not processing any product. Ways to address this issue include making sure that equipment can be turned off and on regularly, and identifying and insulating equipment that continues to lose or gain heat when its designated services are not in function. Good control-engineering will also ensure that equipment automatically switches off or shifts to its lowest power mode when not being used.

Optimize operating temperatures and pressures of equipment and processes

Food and beverage plants have numerous pieces of equipment operating at different temperatures and pressures. Ensuring that all these devices operate at optimal conditions saves significant amounts of energy.

For example, cooled storerooms are often kept at lower temperatures than required due to concerns about potential equipment failure. However, overcooling a storeroom not only wastes energy but raises the probability of equipment failure by increasing the load on the refrigeration plant. The temperature must be set to meet product storage requirements.

Investing in process innovation and equipment upgrade

Redesigning and improving food and beverage manufacturing processes and upgrading equipment can yield the largest energy efficiency improvements. Although this may require significant resources and investment it will inturn yield significant savings.

Purchase equipments with high energy efficiency and ensure it is correctly sized

Significant energy efficiency improvements can be achieved through upgrading or replacing old, inefficient equipment. To reap the benefits, the equipment should be sized correctly for the anticipated load.

Use lower energy alternatives to create heat/steam

Using heat to evaporate water requires large amounts of energy. This is amplified by inefficiencies in heating process technology, such as steam production. Multiple methods are available which provide heat for evaporation much more efficiently, such as filtration, centrifuges, depressurization using waste heat, and ambient temperature air or water. Where heat is used, efficient heat recovery (including the latent heat of water vapor) is critical. Heat pumps efficiently recover heat for use in other processes.

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