GEA has successfully commissioned the key equipment and distillation process technology, supplied at the heart of the Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard €100 million expansion project at their Midleton Distillery.

Tommy Keane, Head of Distilling Operations, remarked that the expansion was undertaken to meet the projected growth of the Irish whiskey category following a 10-fold increase in Jameson sales over the past 25 years and the fact that the implementation of energy-saving measures would make a very real impact on both production costs and carbon footprint. “We chose to partner with GEA”, said Tommy, “a collaboration in process development over a period of more than 5 years. Together, we were able to modernize our grain distillation and mash cooking operations, whilst preserving the absolutely essential Irish traditions and our unique spirit characteristics.”

Key figures

  • Expansion capacity 64 MLA per annum
  • CO2 reduction 37,000 tonnes p.a.*
  • Fuel savings €5.5 million p.a. 
  • Piping installation 8.5 km 
  • Instrument loops 800 

(*) equivalent for new energy-saving over traditional process, at expansion capacity 

The new Grain Column unit was configured to distil under vacuum, with energy coupling by means of a pressure-vacuum cascade. Although a well-founded technique, the particular nature of the spirit required extensive development and validation. “This was achieved, both under laboratory and pilot scale conditions at the Midleton Distillery plant in order to counteract the impacts of temperature and pressure on certain key aromatic components” said GEA spokesperson, David Scheiby. “This resulted in the achievement of a new technological milestone, with the first commercial distilling installation by means of Mechanical Vapor Recompression – or MVR, a heat pump – whereby energy is recovered mechanically and reintroduced back into the distillation column – an almost “virtuous circle” for the recovery and reuse of latent heat.”

The new grain distillation process has replaced and more than doubled the former distillery capacity. “Remarkably, the unit delivered spirit, within specifications, from its very first “hot” run – within a matter of hours of its first fermented mash fill”, said Tommy Keane.

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