Asia’s largest skim milk powder plant showcases sustainable technologies

India’s largest dairy cooperative, Amul, started producing milk products for people in the Gujarat state, and beyond, in the 1950s. Heralded as the pioneer of India’s ‘white revolution’, Amul has been instrumental in making India the world’s largest producer of milk and milk products.

Through a ground breaking partnership with GEA, Amul has built and operates the country’s largest skim milk powder and dairy whitener plant at its AmulFed site in Gandhinagar. The automated facility can produce 150 metric tonnes per day (TPD) of skimmed milk powder and 120 TPD of dairy whitener. The plant sits on the same site as Amul’s existing 60 TPD and 100 TPD powder plants, which were also supplied by GEA, in 1994 and 2004, respectively. “The three plants together means that AmulFed is now the largest single-site skimmed milk powder facility with capacity of 310 TPD in Asia,” explained Mr. Rajesh Golani, Head of Sales Support and Offer Management, at GEA India.

Working in partnership

Amul approached GEA in 2015 to help them in conceptualising the AmulFed project and to generate plans for the prospective plant. “We had series of  interactions with AmulFed on selection of  suitable technology,  superior  features with respect to energy efficiency,  productivity, sustainability, plant and product safety,  eco-friendliness, hygiene, zoning concepts and product quality, so that AmulFed evaluates every  aspect, and efficacy  of the  new plant at par with global standards,” Mr. Rajesh Golani, said. Amul evaluated bids from multiple competing suppliers, and in 2016 GEA won the tender. GEA was responsible for the complete turnkey project, end-to-end, from milk processing to powder packing and including auxiliary systems, electricals, utilities, piping and automation.

Production 24/7

Hygienic design principles and advanced, integrated processing solutions ensure sustainable and future-proof milk powder processing at the AmulFed plant.Built to operate 24/7, the 150 TPD processing and packaging line can handle the highest volumes of milk arriving from dairy farmers throughout the region during the ‘flush’ season, when milk production is at its maximum. The highest capacity and quality manufacturing at AmulFed means that milk at peak loads is processed and converted into valued-added products, including skimmed milk powder, dairy whitener, and whole milk powder. 

Completion in record time

The AmulFed project had to be completed in record time, and within the very tight timescale. Stakeholders from Amul and specialist GEA teams from key technology centers around the world worked closely together to align multiple workforces, complete the civil works, plant construction, installation and configuration, including utilities and ducting, to match existing space and layout. 

The biggest achievement is that we could complete this whole project within 20 months … our flush had started and we needed capacity and we are thankful to GEA that they completed this project on time."

- Dr. Rupinder Singh Sodhi, Managing Director, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) (Amul)

Unprecedented scale

The scale of the powder plant, which covers 26,000 m2, and is eight stories in height, was unprecedented in the Indian dairy sector. GEA has equipped some of the world’s biggest milk powder processing plants, and the AmulFed stakeholders were able to see these first hand. “GEA & AmulFed project teams visited New Zealand to see the latest and large milk powder plants, to evaluate the technology, production processes, building concepts and plant engineering,” Mr. Golani noted.

The end-to-end solution includes the largest GEA MVR evaporators delivered to India to date. The compact technologies require typically 30% less space than conventional systems, and help to cut energy use and costs, and reduce CO2 emissions. Three sets of reverse osmosis polisher units treat condensate from the evaporation plant, and reuse the water. Impressively, AmulFed is nearly a zero water discharge plant, commented Dr. Sodhi. 

AmulFed plant

One hundred percent of evaporated water is condensed and reused in the dairy plant." 

- Dr. Rupinder Singh Sodhi, Managing Director, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) (Amul)

The process step-by-step

After evaporation, the milk concentrate is transferred via small buffer tanks to the spray dryers. GEA supplied its largest multistage MSD® Spray Dryer for the AmulFed plant. The MSD® Spray Dryer is equipped with a dual feed system to allow 24/7 operation and features a GEA developed DDD® Air Disperser with adjustable nozzles for precisely defined agglomeration and better bulk density control of the milk powders. Drying in the MSD® spray drying plant is carried out in three stages, resulting into higher energy efficiency. After the first stage of drying the milk product is transferred to the integrated fluid bed at the bottom of the drying chamber for the second stage of drying, and then to the VIBRO-FLUIDIZER® for the last stage of drying and cooling. The resulting powder is then sifted through GEA’s high sanitary vibratory sifter.

The MSD® spray dryer plant is equipped with hygienic air insulation panels that can be removed periodically to allow for inspection of any fine cracks in the chamber wall. The chamber door with inflatable gasket ensures zero leakage during CIP. The system features GEA’s smart SPRAYEYE® Visual camera system, which gives operators a better oversight and ultimately control of the atomization and agglomeration process, to help maximize reliable processing of the highest quality powders. As Dr. Sodhi opined, the powders produced from this plant have excellent instant properties. 

Zero emissions

The exhaust air from the dryer passes through 4 sets of cyclones to the SANICIP® Bag Filter, and the fines discharged from the Bag Filter are then returned to the drying chamber, saving product and also enabling zero emissions. The SANICIP® Bag Filter supplied to AmulFed is the largest available commercially anywhere in the world. 

The dried skimmed milk powder is transferred from the MSD® system via GEA’s pressure dense phase pneumatic conveying system to various storage silos, from where it can then be transported to the packing machines through a vacuum dense phase conveying system. The conveying system is designed to minimize product breakdown and to retain agglomeration, and so instant powder properties are also retained. AmulFed also operates the largest fully automated, high speed 25kg bulk bag packing line, supplied by GEA, which features total bag control, and an enclosed filling area. The system eliminates the need for an operator to handle unfilled bags, which minimizes contamination risk and helps to ensure complete safety. The plant in addition operates retail and jar filling lines, so can be really flexible to match changing market and consumer demands. 

Advanced safety features

Importantly, the AmulFed facility has been configured with advanced safety features. “The plant is equipped with very advance level of safety, including a CO detection system, explosion suppression system as well as nozzle camera to monitor the atomizer cloud,” noted Mr. Golani. Systems for monitoring and regulating the entire plant operation, help to ensure top quality production, optimize the use of resources, minimize waste, product loss and emissions, and reduce down time and unnecessary stoppages.

The completed AmulFed plant delivers the highest quality products. 

We looked at the competency of GEA to provide us with a fully automatic plant. Our aim was to look for the best technology that could deliver a very good quality product, very good efficiency, environmentally friendly, and also deliver a high level of productivity."

- Mr. Anilkumar Bayati – General Manager, AmulFed Dairy, Gandhinagar

"It’s a completely integrated setup right from our milk processing to our packaging. The products manufactured are of global standard … products produced by the plant fetch the best price in the globe, because of the quality of the milk and the technology that we have adopted. This has really helped us in achieving our target." 

As Mr. Rajesh Golani summed up, “Amul is a powerful brand – a market leader always striving to set up new benchmarks in Indian dairy whether it is in terms of technology, production scales and new dairy products.  So are we at GEA always at the forefront of innovative dairy technologies, engineering skills and project management techniques and our cohesive GEA teams zealously building plants that are large, complex and challenging.  It was therefore natural for both GEA and Amul to forge together a continuing partnership to build this momentous plant, setting up new paradigm for the Indian dairy sector.”

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