The process of mak­ing su­gar at Lan­tic fac­tory a sweet deal

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Farm News - BY HEATHER CAMERON

Al­berta Su­gar Beet Grow­ers' Har­vest Tour be­gan with a visit to a su­gar beet crop be­long­ing to Vucer­vich Farms and from there, a quick view of a beet re­ceiv­ing sta­tion was pro­vided on the way to Lan­tic Su­gar Fac­tory in Taber. Upon ar­rival at the fac­tory, the tour was di­vided into groups and shown a first­hand look at the process of turn­ing su­gar beets into var­i­ous prod­ucts.

“The fac­tory's first pro­duc­tion was 1950,” said An­drew Llewe­lyn-Jones, the Op­er­a­tions Man­ager of Lan­tic Su­gar Fac­tory. “In 1999, we went through a ma­jor ex­pan­sion and prior to 1999, we were slic­ing 4,000 tons a day. To­day, we're slic­ing 6,000 tons plus per day.”

The tour be­gan with a view of a truck un­load­ing su­gar beets into the wet hop­per and were also treated to a view of the su­gar beets be­ing moved through the fac­tory's flume sys­tem into the beet washer. Af­ter be­ing washed, the beets were moved through the de­wa­ter­ing screen and into a hop­per above the slicer. The beets were then moved into the slicers, which are six ro­tat­ing knives that cut the beets into noo­dle-like pieces known as cosettes. The cosettes, which con­tain 18% to 19% su­gar, are dropped on to a con­veyor belt and fed into a cosette mixer where they are mixed with juice and pumped to the bot­tom of the ex­trac­tion tower.

From there, the su­gar sep­a­rates from the cosettes via their por­ous walls and en­ters wa­ter that is added from the top of the tower and moves down­ward via grav­ity. Most of the sug­ary juice, oth­er­wise known as raw juice, is pumped back to the cosette mixer while a por­tion of the juice is re­cir­cu­lated back to the tower and cre­ates pulp, which con­tains less than 0.5% su­gar. The wet pulp, which con­tains ap­prox­i­mately 90% wa­ter, is trans­ported to the pulp presses and through press­ing pro­cesses, the amount of wa­ter is dropped to about 75% per­cent.

Pressed pulp is ei­ther sold as live­stock feed or con­veyed back to the pulp dri­ers where the mois­ture in the pulp is re­duced to 10%. Dried pulp is trans­ported to the pel­let mills and made into pel­lets.

Dur­ing the su­gar re­moval process, other im­pu­ri­ties are also re­moved from the root so that the su­gar can be crys­tal­lized and the re­moval process is done us­ing lime and car­bon diox­ide gas. There is a three-step process in pu­ri­fy­ing juice and it in­volves lime be­ing added grad­u­ally. The juice is also car­bon­ated and even­tu­ally trans­formed into what is known as thin juice.

Be­fore crys­tal­liza­tion, the juice needs to be con­cen­trated and is done through mul­ti­ple ef­fect evap­o­ra­tor sys­tems heated by steam from the pow­er­house. Once the juice leaves the evap­o­ra­tor sys­tems, its con­cen­tra­tion is up to 7075% and the juice is now thick; some of it is cooled and pumped into large stor­age tanks for later pro­cess­ing into gran­u­lated su­gar.

The rest of the juice is sent to the su­gar end of the fac­tory, com­bined with remelt sug­ars, and be­comes stan­dard liquor. The stan­dard liquor is pres­sure fil­tered to pro­duce a golden-col­ored liquor from which the gran­u­lated su­gar is pro­duced. The su­gar it­self is re­cov­ered by crys­tal­liza­tion in white vac­uum pans and grows with the as­sis­tance of fur­ther con­cen­tra­tion and ad­di­tion of stan­dard liquor. The mix­ture, called masse­cuite, is dropped into a mixer and feeds the white cen­trifu­gal, bas­ket-like ma­chines.

As the cen­trifu­gal baskets ro­tate at high speed, they force the syrup out of the masse­cuite un­til there is only white su­gar left. Once the su­gar is dried, it is sent to the stor­age si­los un­til its pack­aged. The syrupy part, on the other hand, is re­turned to the high raw vac­uum pans and the crys­tal­liza­tion and sep­a­ra­tion pro­cesses are re­peated and the syrup is even­tu­ally trans­formed into beet mo­lasses. Some of the beet mo­lasses is added to pressed pulp be­fore it en­ters the pulp dri­ers while the rest is stored in tanks and sold as liq­uid feed for live­stock or yeast pro­duc­tion.

“South­ern Al­berta is home to the only place where the su­gar beets are grown and re­fined,” Melody Gar­ner-Sk­iba, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Cana­dian Su­gar Beet Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, said. “It's pretty amaz­ing to see how the su­gar beets end up as su­gar. There's a lot of pride among farmers in grow­ing su­gar beets.”

Su­gar is put into bags with the help of ma­chin­ery.

A ma­chine that boils su­gar.

Photos by Heather Cameron

The Lan­tic Safety Su­per­vi­sor holds sliced su­gar beets.

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