Sugar refinery is the refinery that processes raw sugar into white refined sugar. It can be also the refinery that processes sugar beet to refined sugar.
Numerous cane sugar mills yield raw sugar, which is the sugar that contains molasses that give it more color than the white sugar that’s normally consumed in households as well as utilized as an ingredient in foods and soft drinks. While the cane sugar doesn’t strictly need refining, sugar from beet is always refined to get rid of the strong, unwanted taste of the beets. The produced refined sugar is more than ninety-nine percent pure sucrose.
While a lot of sugar mills only operating during a particular time of the year during the harvesting period of the cane, there are other cane sugar refineries that work the whole year. Some sugar beet refineries tend to have a much shorter period of time when processing beet, yet other intermediate product as well as process that during the off-season.
In the local refineries, raw sugar is processed into white refined sugar and sold to local consumers and the industry or it’s exported in a particular destination or country. More often than not, sugar refineries are located in heavy sugar-consuming areas including North America, Japan, and Europe. Since 1990s, tons of state-of-the-art refineries have been made in the MENA region including Dubai, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia. The largest sugar refinery company in the world is called American Sugar Refining with facilities in Europe and North America.
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The remaining sugar is dissolved to make a syrup, which is about seventy percent by weight solids that’s clarified by adding calcium hydroxide and phosphoric acid that combine to precipitate the calcium phosphate. The particles of calcium phosphate entrap several impurities and absorb some. Then, float to the tank’s top where they’re skimmed off.
After the remaining solids were filtered out, the clarified syrup is decolorized through filtration through the bed of an activated carbon or in a much modern plant, it is called ion-exchange resin.
Raw sugar is stored in huge warehouses and transported into the sugar refinery through the use of transport belts. In the typical process of refining, the raw sugar is combined first with the heavy syrup and mixed to wash away the raw sugar crystal’s outer coating, which is less pure compared to the crystal interior. A lot of sugar refineries during these days purchase high pol sugar and may do without the process of affination.
The syrup that was purified is concentrate to undergo supersaturation and crystallized under the vacuum to make white refined sugar. In a sugar mill, the sugar crystals were separated from the mother liquor through centrifuging. To make granulated sugar, wherein the sugar grains don’t clump together, the sugar should be dried.
Sugar Storage and Drying
Drying can be done by drying the sugar in the hot rotary dryer. Then, through blowing cool air in the Centrifugal fan/blower, it will be stored for several days in the conditioning silos. The end product will be stored in the large steel or concrete silos. This is shipped in bulk, huge bags to industrial customers and packed in customer-size packages for the retailers.
The dried sugar should be handled with caution. It is because sugar dust explosions may exist, which is possible. Sugar dust explosions led to thirteen fatalities in a sugar refinery explosion.
Press mud, bagasse, and molasses are the byproducts of sugar refinery process.
Automation in Factory Sugar Refineries
In other industries, automation in factory has been promoted in sugar refineries in several years. Generally, the process of production is controlled by the central process control system that directly controls majority of the machines as well as components. Only for particular special machines like the centrifuges in the sugar houses decentralized PLCs are utilized for some security reasons.
The Process of Refining
The process of refining starts with the process known as affination that involves combining the raw sugar with hot syrup to soften the crystals’ outer coating. Then, the crystals are separated from the syrup through spinning in the centrifugal.
The crystals are discharged from centrifugal and dissolved in the hot water to make a sugar liquor. The melted sugar liquor will be purified using the process of phosphatation or carbonation. Such processes trap the suspended impurities into larger particles that are simpler to separate from the sugar liquor.
The process of carbonation involves adding lime and carbon dioxide to the melted sugar to make a calcium carbonate’s precipitate. This will be removed through pressure filtering the sugar liquor by cloth in the pressure leaf filter, which leaves the straw-colored and crystal clear liquid.
The process of phosphatation, on the other hand, involves phosphoric acid to the melted sugar as well as removing the precipitate as the layer from the flotation clarifier’s top. The phosphatated liquor is also filtered through sand in the deep bed filter to get rid of any residual precipitate left after clarification.
This liquid passes the process of decolorizing columns that absorb the colorant molecules. Then, the clear liquid is concentrated through boiling in the vacuum pan. Then, it is seeded with the fine sugar crystals that are grown to the needed size through adding extra liquor. Once the crystals are big enough, the syrup and crystals will be discharged from the pan.
The combination of syrup and crystals are known as massecuite, which is processed through the set of centrifugals wherein the crystals were separated from the syrup, which will be boiled again and more sugar crystals will be extracted from it. This process may be repeated for several times.