Li Qing­peng, Cook­ing Oil Ex­pert

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Wang Wei Edited by Mark Zuiderveld Pho­tos by Ma Ke

He has al­ways been con­sci­en­tious. His in­struc­tions are quick and to the point. He never for­gets why he started his work and ac­com­plishes ev­ery mis­sion as­signed to him.

Walk­ing into Nanyuan Veg­etable Cook­ing Oil Plant of the Bei­jing Grain Group (BGG) in Tian­gongyuan, huge white tanks fill the scene. The tanks con­tain crude cook­ing oils for Bei­jingers. If nat­u­ral dis­as­ters oc­cur or cook­ing oil prices rise, the re­serve oil in the tanks will be sup­plied to markets.

At the foot of a tank, Li Qing­peng wears glasses and a blue uni­form while di­rect­ing the tank be­ing filled. Li looks like a scholar, and his in­struc­tions are quick and to the point. In re­cent years, Li has con­stantly car­ried out R&D on tech­nolo­gies for re­serve veg­etable cook­ing oils such as en­vi­ron­men­tal­lyfriendly and in­tel­li­gent stor­age to re­spond to the gov­ern­ment’s food safety reg­u­la­tions. Li has pub­lished seven es­says in Chi­nese jour­nals.

In 2008, Li de­vel­oped a tech­nol­ogy com­bin­ing low oxy­gen with ni­tro­gen gas, which greatly im­proved the stor­age of veg­etable cook­ing oils. This tech­nol­ogy won the first prize of in­no­va­tion of BGG and the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal Bureau of Grain.

Over the next few years, Li has par­tic­i­pated in, and been re­spon­si­ble for, R& D projects, in­clud­ing qual­ity changes in the course of stor­ing cook­ing oils, up­grad­ing of fill­ing equip­ment for cook­ing oil tanks, sta­tis­ti­cal soft­ware and en­vi­ron­men­tally- friendly stor­age of cook­ing oils, com­bin­ing dig­i­tal and au­to­matic se­cu­rity and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nolo­gies to track 130 sen­sors in tanks and stor­age ar­eas to achieve an in­tel­li­gent man­age­ment sys­tem.

In 2015, Li was awarded as one of the best em­ploy­ees in both BGG and all of Bei­jing’s grain in­dus­try due to his work and out­stand­ing achieve­ments.

Ex­pe­ri­ence from the Grass Roots

Li is as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager of the Nanyuan Veg­etable Cook­ing Oil Plant. As a mem­ber of the CPC Communist Party of China (CPC), he acts as a role model in his daily work. Li has led his team mem­bers to process all kinds of inbound and out­bound oils weigh­ing more than 500,000 tons since he joined the plant. Li also im­proved over 30 reg­u­la­tions in­clud­ing those for inbound and out­bound oils, daily safety and check­ing the work­flow for stan­dar­d­is­ing stor­age man­age­ment of cook­ing oils.

Li is not only a good man­ager but also a tech­no­log­i­cal ex­pert who’s car­ried out many key R&D projects. How­ever, Li was con­fused when he first learned about his univer­sity ma­jor. In 2001, Li en­tered into He­nan Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy. Li had se­lected in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy as his ma­jor, as it be­gan to be a pop­u­lar univer­sity pro­gramme at that time.

But upon re­ceiv­ing his col­lege ac­cep­tance let­ter, Li learned that he was trans­ferred to the food en­gi­neer­ing and sci­ence pro­gramme at the univer­sity. Be­fore step­ping foot on cam­pus, Li won­dered what the ma­jor was and later joked that he was in­ap­pro­pri­ately cho­sen to study the pro­gramme.

Ac­cord­ing to se­nior stu­dents, one of the high­lights of the univer­sity is the study­ing of grain and cook­ing oil stor­age. In terms of its aca­demic level and prac­ti­cal tech­nolo­gies, the pro­gramme has be­come one of China’s top three. The more he stud­ied, the more proud he felt.

But af­ter grad­u­at­ing from univer­sity in 2005, he be­gan to work as a lo­gis­tic staff mem­ber in Nanyuan Veg­etable Cook­ing Oil Plant. Li’s work in­cluded the pro­duc­tion’s inbound out­bound and daily in­spec­tions, which didn’t have much to do with his univer­sity pro­gramme.

Li said, “At that time, I was a bluecol­lar worker switch­ing valves on and off, but I held a bach­e­lor’s of en­gi­neer­ing de­gree. My en­thu­si­asm and am­bi­tion were hit hard by re­al­ity, al­though I was ex­cited when I first saw these huge cook­ing oil tanks.”

Li was touched by his men­tor Zhang De­qing’s ded­i­ca­tion af­ter talk­ing with him. Li ad­justed his frus­tra­tion to face re­al­ity as he did af­ter he en­tered univer­sity. Li de­cided to ap­ply him­self at a grass roots level. He didn’t know his po­si­tion was in­ten­tion­ally ar­ranged by Zhang and the man­age­ment team.

“Later, my men­tor said plac­ing me in the grass roots was a test and train­ing for me. Col­lege grad­u­ates will of­ten be pro­moted into man­age­rial po­si­tions but they must learn about how front- line

work­ers do their daily work to deal with their fu­ture man­age­ment. I only worked in that role for a few months, but those ex­pe­ri­ences were very ben­e­fi­cial. Like an old Chi­nese sage said, ‘ When heaven is about to place a re­spon­si­bil­ity on a great man, it frus­trates his spirit and will and ex­hausts his mus­cles and bones,’” Li con­tin­ued.

With great am­bi­tion, Li be­gan to learn about a va­ri­ety of front­line work such as in­for­ma­tion about the pipe­lines con­nected with the tanks, mea­sur­ing the depth of oil in the tanks, get­ting oil sam­ples and clean­ing the tanks. He could climb 20 huge tanks in a morn­ing. Pipe­lines con­nected with tanks were laid in ditches. To be­come fa­mil­iar with the lay­out of the pipe­lines and avoid im­proper op­er­a­tions that might cause an ac­ci­dent, Li went into the ditches to find out which di­rec­tion the pipe­lines were head­ing. Li said these things couldn’t be taught in col­lege classes and only those who have done that kind of work could have a deeper un­der­stand­ing of the in­dus­try.

Months passed af­ter Li de­cided to set­tle into his grass­roots po­si­tion. He was trans­ferred to an of­fice to deal with is­sues such as com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween BGG and the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal Bureau of Grain. Li cher­ished his work ex­pe­ri­ence at the grass roots level, which laid the ground­work for his fu­ture man­age­ment and R&D work.


In 2008, some­thing ma­jor hap­pened in Li’s in­dus­try, mak­ing him re­alise his re­spon­si­bil­ity. For part of that year, the price of soy­bean cook­ing oil in Bei­jing soared from more than 6,000 yuan to 17,000 yuan per ton. When the price of soy­bean oil rose to 80 yuan per bot­tle, the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal Bureau of Grain in­structed his plant to pro­vide 2,000 tons of re­fined soy­bean cook­ing oils to ease the price within three days.

The soy­bean oil en­tered into su­per-markets and whole­sale markets. “The 2,000 tons of oil were used as a cushion for a later 5,000 tons of oils, Li said, “But we needed a pe­riod to re­fine the crude 5,000 tons of oil be­fore it en­tered the mar­ket. One week af­ter the oil was sup­plied to the mar­ket, the oil price dropped by 50 per­cent. These re­serves were in­stru­men­tal in reg­u­lat­ing mar­ket prices at a crit­i­cal time.”

Af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing this event, Li strength­ened his phi­los­o­phy of “lov­ing what­ever you are en­gaged in.” In 2008, Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity hosted the Sum­mer Olympic Games and BGG and the Mu­nic­i­pal Bureau of Grain put for­ward an idea of eco-friendly stor­age. That year be­came a turn­ing point of Li’s ca­reer. Ac­cord­ing to BGG’S man­age­ment, a re­search team led by Li was founded. The team’s first R&D project was us­ing ni­tro­gen gas for stor­ing cook­ing oils in sealed tanks.

Li said, “En­vi­ron­men­tal­lyfriendly stor­age means no chem­i­cal com­po­nents are added and only in­ert gases are suit­able.” Li and his team mem­bers de­cided to use ni­tro­gen gas be­cause of its low cost of pu­rifi­ca­tion. But one of the ma­jor chal­lenges was yet to come. Set­ting pa­ram­e­ters for ni­tro­gen pres­sure and con­cen­tra­tion was the key to R&D. Too much pres­sure can cause a tank’s de­for­ma­tion and in­ad­e­quate con­cen­tra­tion won’t have an ef­fect. Li’s team took more than a year to com­plete the se­lec­tion of set­ting pa­ram­e­ters af­ter car­ry­ing out re­peated com­par­a­tive stud­ies. In 2010, Li’s team achieved its first in­no­va­tion— ni­tro­gen- gas-fill­ing tech­nol­ogy that was widely used in his com­pany.

Li thinks the R&D of 2008 was in line with a trend of his in­dus­try. He said he did some work not re­lated to his pro­fes­sion for a while, but he re­viewed his pro­fes­sional books for fu­ture pur­poses.

The Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Com­mis­sion de­cided to au­tho­rise the R&D of cook­ing oils’ en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly stor­age to Li’s team due to its stor­ing of cook­ing oils with com­bin­ing low- oxy­gen and ni­tro­gen gas—a lead­ing tech­nol­ogy in China.

Ac­cord­ing to Li, in­no­va­tion means in­te­grat­ing wis­dom. From 2008 to 2015, Li’s team com­pleted the R& D of a com­plete au­to­ma­tion sys­tem. A stor­age area with a ca­pac­ity of 58,000 tons in Li’s plant has achieved in­tel­li­gent man­age­ment of inbound and out­bound pro­cesses, such as sur­veil­lance, the use of in­frared de­vices and oil sup­ply equip­ment that can be turned on and off au­to­mat­i­cally.

In the stor­age area, huge cook­ing oil tanks stand as if they were small build­ings. Li showed a re­porter from Bei­jing mag­a­zine to the foot of a tank. Li climbed up 20 tanks that morn­ing. The re­porter climbed the tank us­ing a lad­der fixed on its outer walls, but his breath­ing be­gan to quicken when he was half­way to the top.

Li’s R&D has fo­cused on cook­ing oils in the tanks, aim­ing to al­low peo­ple to use safe prod­ucts. In 2017, the use of molec­u­lar flu­o­res­cence to test adul­ter­ation is a new achieve­ment of Li’s team. This tech­nol­ogy can en­sure the first stage of food safety by analysing whether crude cook­ing oils are in­fe­rior, and whether oils were con­tam­i­nated with other in­gre­di­ents.

“Over the years, we have no­ticed that some crude cook­ing oils’ in­dices rose sharply in a short pe­riod and its qual­ity dropped rapidly. The rea­son is that grade one soy­bean oils are added in in­fe­rior crude oils to bal­ance their qual­ity but the ef­fect is tem­po­rary. Tech­nolo­gies such as in­frared, ul­tra­vi­o­let and spec­tral anal­y­sis for de­tect­ing oil qual­ity weren’t ideal. We fi­nally came up with molec­u­lar flu­o­res­cence, be­cause the prin­ci­ple is to use the wave­length of each sub­stance to iden­tify cook­ing oil in­gre­di­ents,” Li said, “The ex­per­i­ment was dif­fi­cult. Peo­ple of­ten say an elf is con­fused by mixed oils, and it’s true.”

Dur­ing the R&D of molec­u­lar flu­o­res­cence, Li and his team mem­bers met a range of dif­fi­cul­ties such as huge amounts of data re­gard­ing dif­fer­ent pro­por­tions, ori­gins and types of crude cook­ing oils. To deal with these is­sues, they in­vited ex­perts from the Bei­jing Cen­tre for Phys­i­cal and Chem­i­cal Anal­y­sis to in­tro­duce mod­el­ing that serves to col­lect ex­per­i­men­tal pa­ram­e­ters to match char­ac­ter­is­tics of crude oils with grade one soy­bean oils, which was a breakthrough in R&D.

In re­cent years, Li has in­cluded R&D per­tain­ing to qual­ity changes in cook­ing oil stor­age and he con­tin­ued to ex­plore and in­no­vate.

A Man with a Mis­sion

Li’s team also worked on stor­age area au­to­ma­tion man­age­ment sys­tems. At each cor­ner of a tank’s fence, there is a set of anti-theft in­frared emit­ters. When­ever some­one touches these in­vis­i­ble bar­ri­ers, an alarm is trig­gered in the con­trol room, where states of all tanks, var­i­ous pa­ram­e­ters and set­tings, fill­ing switches and other func­tions can be mon­i­tored and com­manded through the au­to­ma­tion sys­tem.

In 2015, in ac­cor­dance with a plan of the Peo­ple’s Gov­ern­ment of Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, the area cov­ered by Li’s plant was in­cluded in an af­ford­able hous­ing de­vel­op­ment plan sup­ported by the gov­ern­ment. The re­lo­ca­tion of re­serve oil tanks wasn’t only nec­es­sary for de­vel­op­ment, but also a mis­sion ar­ranged by the gov­ern­ment for Li’s team.

From Novem­ber 3 to De­cem­ber 15, 2015, Li led his team mem­bers to over­come oils’ flu­id­ity re­duc­tion due to low tem­per­a­ture, ve­hi­cles that can only be used ev­ery other day be­cause of an odd- even li­cense plate sys­tem for re­liev­ing air pol­lu­tion and sud­den heavy snow­fall to re­lo­cate more than 50,000 tons of oil, en­sur­ing the de­vel­op­ment of af­ford­able hous­ing.

Li at­trib­uted the suc­cess of the re­lo­ca­tion to his team­work. He said he was in a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion as it was a tough task with a tight sched­ule and he was un­der­staffed. Li di­vided his team mem­bers into small groups to per­form their work.

In the old stor­age area, Li led his team mem­bers to trans­port oils to the new stor­age area in Dax­ing, where his men­tor Zhang was re­spon­si­ble for re­ceiv­ing and ware­hous­ing oils, test­ing oil tanks, pumps, pipe­lines and au­to­ma­tion equip­ment. Li said, “My dif­fi­culty was to re­duce losses. If I didn’t con­trol the ve­hi­cles and man­age­ment of out­bound oil, a one per­cent loss of 50,000 tons meant 500 tons, which was cov­ered by the plant.”

Li and Zhang held fast to their own po­si­tions for the re­lo­ca­tion day and night. They dealt with the busi­ness of each depart­ment dur­ing the day, and kept close eyes on the site at night to re­spond to a va­ri­ety of emer­gen­cies. One day, a weigh­bridge’s sen­sor didn’t work due to sleet. Li had no time to no­tify any­one. At more than 10 de­grees be­low zero Cel­cius, he scraped ice and frozen soil off to fix the weigh­bridge.

To min­imise losses, af­ter each tank was emp­tied, a small pump was used to draw pre­cip­i­tated grease out of the tank with added ni­tro­gen gas. The planned loss rate was six thou­sandths, as re­quired by the man­age­ment, but Li’s rate was three thou­sandths. Li proudly stated that, “In the his­tory of BGG, we have kept a record of the low­est loss rate dur­ing large amounts of oil re­lo­ca­tion. We were awarded by BGG at that time.”

Li said re­lo­ca­tion ran smoothly as he co­op­er­ated with Zhang and other team mem­bers; be­fore the re­lo­ca­tion, he and Zhang had com­pleted the de­sign plan of an au­to­ma­tion man­age­ment sys­tem for the new stor­age area; more­over, Zhang en­tered the new area a year in ad­vance for its con­struc­tion.

From op­er­at­ing each valve and col­lect­ing ba­sic sta­tis­ti­cal data to ar­rang­ing inbound and out­bound flows of oils and man­ag­ing de­part­ments, Li has al­ways been con­sci­en­tious. He said he never for­gets why he started his work, and that his mis­sion can be ac­com­plished.

Li Qing­peng tests a veg­etable oil sam­ple.

Li Qing­peng (left) in­structs his col­league to con­duct an ex­per­i­ment.

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