Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Food

As a leading North American bakery company Weston Foods ensures its numerous facilities productively and cost-effectively produce high-quality baked goods. But it doesn’t stop there. It goes the extra mile to optimize and manage its utilities to conserve energy and protect the environment.
Compressed air is used in more than 70 percent of all manufacturing activities, ranging from highly critical applications that may impact product quality to general “shop” uses. When compressed air is used in the production of pharmaceuticals, food, beverages, medical devices, and other products, there seems to be confusion on what testing needs to be performed.
Compressed Air Performance Specialists (CAPS Inc.) is a compressed air consultancy located in Calgary, Alberta. In its most recent compressed air project, the company reduced a 200-hp, multi-compressor system down to a single, 100-hp variable speed drive (VSD) air compressor utilizing 75 hp of compressor energy (kWh), resulting in $70,000 in annual energy savings.
A major snack food manufacturer spends an estimated $148,220 annually on energy to operate the compressed air system at its food processing plant located in the Mid-Atlantic area.  As electric rates rise from their current average of 8 cents per kWh, their annual expenditure will only increase.
As readers of this publication know, there are many ways to save energy in industrial compressed air systems. One common supply side technology is the variable frequency drive (VFD) of the compressor. It is well-documented that positive-displacement compressors with VFDs provide cost-effective savings in comparison to inlet modulating, load-unload, and variable displacement control.
Formaldehyde is an organic compound that can adopt several different forms. It can be used in solution form as formalin, as a free gas, or in a solid form as paraformaldehyde prills. Formaldehyde is highly toxic to humans, regardless of the method of intake. At room temperature it is a colorless gas characterized by a pungent odor. Even with very short-term exposure, formaldehyde will cause irritation to the eyes including pain, redness, blurred vision followed by sneezing, soreness, coughing, shortness of breath, headaches and nausea. Exposure to elevated levels can lead to accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema).
Compressed air is a critical utility widely used throughout the food industry.  Being aware of the composition of compressed air used in your plant is key to avoiding product contamination.  Your task is to assess the activities and operations that can harm a product, the extent to which a product can be harmed, and how likely it is that product harm will occur. Assessing product contamination is a multi-step process in which you must identify the important risks, prioritize them for management, and take reasonable steps to remove or reduce the chance of harm to the product, and, in particular, serious harm to the consumer.
SQF is a food safety management company that conducts audits and reports its findings on companies that voluntarily subscribe to its services. Once an audit is performed, SQF releases the data; from this data, other companies can determine who they want to use for packaging and manufacturing. To facilitate the process, SQF has released a guide that provides directives for processes used in manufacturing.
When the topic of discussion is making ice cream, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t heat, but at Nestlé’s Ice Cream factory in Tulare, California, heat is recovered from air-cooled air compressors to heat process water. “Right out of the gate, everything is pneumatic,” explains Tom Finn, Project Engineer with Nestlé Ice Cream Division. “Air cylinders and air driven motors, the process piping valves which divert, route, stop/start, and mix process fluids, our packaging machinery including rejection, cleaning and vapor removal processes, all of these rely on compressed air.
This is a food processing plant where processes and standards are controlled by FDA to AIB standards. Annual plant electric costs for compressed air production, as operating today, are $116,765 per year. If the electric costs of $3,323 associated with operating ancillary equipment such as dryers are included, the total electric costs for operating the air system are $120,088 per year. These estimates are based upon a blended electric rate of $0.085/kWh.
Compressed air is used in a number of processes in the food industry. It is used as an ingredient in whipped products such as ice cream, to slice or cut soft products and to open packagesbefore filling of product. Currently, food manufacturers are under pressure to validate the safety of all ingredients or processes for regulatory compliance, but unfortunately, there is currently no standard method to evaluate the microbial content of compressed air.