Liquid milk production is a highly competitive business. The Aurivo site in County Donegal annually produces and packages 120 million liters of whole milk, skimmed and low-fat drinking milks — including organic milk — for a range of brands. Milk-processing companies operate at very low margins, so efficiency is a must. But they also need to stay flexible to meet their customers’ changing demands and production throughput and are tasked with improving environmental sustainability. To stay competitive, Aurivo looked to increase efficiency and capacity, as well as reduce carbon footprint. The firm already used a green supplier for its electricity, so a key goal was to reduce overall energy use and cut reliance on fossil-fuel-fired water boilers.
Aurivo liquid milk processing plant at Killygordon site.
As a key part of its upgrade program, the firm contracted and worked with GEA’s local teams in Ireland to design, configure and install a new refrigeration plant that would replace the existing, outdated and inefficient refrigeration system at the Killygordon facility. As a result of early discussions, Aurivo decided to exploit GEA heat pump technology to reclaim and channel excess heat from the new cooling plant to heat water for the milk pasteurization process. This capability would positively impact energy use and allow Aurivo to reduce fossil fuel-based heating (boiler), and therefore cut carbon emissions.
GEA heat pump system installed at Aurivo, based on GEA Grasso 65HP reciprocating compressor.
The new refrigeration plant was built on the site of the old, decommissioned plant. The GEA and Aurivo utilities teams also worked hand-in-hand with GEA Ireland’s dairy liquid processing specialists who installed the new, larger 45,000 l/h capacity pasteurizer, together with separation, homogenization and milk standardization equipment that work seamlessly with the upgraded refrigeration and heat pump solutions. “It can be very cost-effective for customers to consider preconfigured, modularized systems that can be installed and commissioned within just a few days, and without significant labor costs,” commented Declan McNulty, head of equipment sales at GEA Ireland. “The skid pasteurizer concept is gaining considerable traction in the marketplace. The system at Aurivo has reduced water and electricity usage, and results in less volume of waste to drain.”
As a single-source supplier of both liquid processing and refrigeration/heating systems, GEA integrated the configuration of refrigeration, heat pump and pasteurizer systems. "We didn’t just provide a heat pump or a pasteurizer, we optimized the pasteurizer to suit the heat pump application for the Aurivo site. All the way through the project, we were focused on offering a complete solution, not just individual parts, so that our technologies could help to reduce waste, energy consumption and use of fossil fuels, while increasing capacity and making the Aurivo facility one of the most sustainable dairy plants in Ireland." said Kenneth Hoffmann, product manager heat pumps, GEA Heating & Refrigeration Technologies.
GEA dairy processing system installed at Aurivo, featuring a milk pasteurizer with skimming separator, automatic standardizing unit and homogenizer.
The overall upgrade has increased Aurivo’s hourly milk processing capacity by 80%, and reduced energy consumption for processing, heating and chilling by about 12%. Operational savings amount to more than €347,000 annually, and CO2 emissions have dropped by more than 780 tonnes per year. Importantly, the heat pump technology has dramatically cut Aurivo’s use of fossil fuels for heating the water used for pasteurization.
“The new refrigeration and heat pump solutions provide us with 1200 kW of cooling, and roughly the same in heating capacity,” commented Stephen Carlin, Aurivo’s engineering manager. “The GEA heat pump that collects and recycles excess energy from the chiller provides us with the remaining energy needed to take the water up to the pasteurization temperature of 78°C, or even a couple of degrees higher if required. This has rendered our traditional fuel oil-burning boilers almost redundant for the pasteurization process. In fact, we now only have to turn the boilers on for one hour a week to kick-start each process cycle.” There is also untapped capacity in the heat pump system, Carlin noted. “At present we are only using 50% of the heat pump capacity. If necessary, we could double the amount of hot water produced, and therefore potentially double our capacity for pasteurization.”
GEA refrigeration system installed at Aurivo, based on GEA Grasso V1100 reciprocating compressor.
- Stephen Carlin, engineering manager at Aurivo.
“One of our biggest fears was protracted downtime and not being able to deliver to our customers. That would have had serious consequences for the company. The whole process of switching over and commissioning was seamless from the perspective of getting both the liquid processing systems and the refrigeration and heat pump plants on stream.” added Carlin.
GEA’s Paul McEntee (right) at the Aurvio Killygordon site.
- Paul McEntee, business development manager at GEA Ireland.
Aurivo is continuing its partnership with GEA through a service level agreement. “We have been hugely impressed with the knowledge of the GEA experts, and it’s really important to us that we will have access to a local, expert GEA team for both the liquid processing and refrigeration/heating solutions,” Carlin pointed out. “There are GEA offices and expert support just a couple of hours away here in Ireland, and we know that we can call on the teams at any time, even on a Sunday evening, to ensure that we don’t have expensive downtime and process stoppages.” In addition, Aurivo is taking advantage of digital capabilities, which means that with appropriate authorization, GEA specialists can access the systems at Aurivo remotely to help monitor and optimize operations. “The pasteurization and refrigeration systems are linked through the system, which can be controlled remotely, saving time and money and helping to keep the plant running optimally.”
GEA is one of the world’s largest systems suppliers for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical sectors. Our portfolio includes machinery and plants as well as advanced process technology, components and comprehensive services. Used across diverse industries, they enhance the sustainability and efficiency of production processes globally.
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