Hulunbuir Shengtong Sugar Technology Co. Ltd. has been planning to expand its beet sugar business in Hulunbuir, the northernmost region of Inner Mongolia, since early 2017. Now the time has come for this big vision to become reality. BMA’s part has been the construction of a 5,000-tbd sugar plant in the space of just two years.
There were serious challenges: long and hard winters with extreme temperatures down to 40° C below zero; short growing seasons and limited experience in the cultivation, harvesting and preservation of beets; inadequate capacities in the processing industry and high logistics costs.
BMA reviewed the beet sugar process, reassessing in particular the handling of beets, which are frozen during much of the campaign. The solution we suggested was the installation of a state-of-the-art extraction tower and countercurrent cossette (CCC) mixer. But further investigation was required, as China had no past experience with sugar beet processing at all.
Together, BMA China, BMA AG and BMA America visited several sugar producers in North Dakota, a traditional sugar beet area in the United States where climatic conditions are similar to those in Hulunbuir. There, we could see tried-and-tested processing methods up close.
This strengthened the customer’s resolve to opt for the extraction concept suggested – a premiere in China – and tackle the special challenges. An agreement was signed in June 2017. The kick-off meeting followed soon after, marking the start of engineering, local manufacture, and construction work.
One major challenge was to complete all assembly and construction work within just four months during the long winter, in time for the first campaign in 2018. To prevent any unscheduled maintenance work resulting from the harsh ambient temperatures, the CCC mixer and extraction tower had to be placed inside the building. Lifting and installing these large pieces of equipment took time – and a major effort.
Thanks to the excellent coordination and hard work by all those involved, the extraction plant passed quality control with flying colours and was ready to go on schedule.
The first campaign is now over. Performance of the plant has been stable, even with large volumes of sugar beets. The raw juice has a constant flow rate, and the setpoint values for Brix, purity and temperature have been met, while the residual sugar content of the wet pulp even stayed below target. These excellent technical results form a sound basis for the smooth running of all downstream processes.