GEA, one of the largest suppliers of processing technology for the global dairy and food industry, installs a high performance spray dryer as the centerpiece of the new milk powder plant in Lichfield, New Zealand. For its customer Fonterra, GEA developed the best performing and the most efficient spray dryer currently available on the market. With the capacity of 30 tons of milk powder per hour, it can process nearly 4.4 million liters of milk per day. This volume corresponds to 165 truckloads. On September 5, 2016, Fonterra started the production process, which is now being gradually expanded to round-the-clock operation.
GEA was responsible for the complete turnkey milk powder plant and provided all of the processing technology – from acceptance of the tanker to evaporation, drying and powder handling to packaging. When you know the sheer size of the spray dryer, you can clearly imagine the dimensions of the actual plant: its drying chamber weighs about 200 tons with the diameter of 18 meters. During assembly, it was lifted 34 meters above the roof of the building and had to be placed precisely within the building.
The spray dryer is the second of the kind, built by GEA. Its sister plant Darfield II, also operated by Fonterra in New Zealand, has been producing reliably high-quality powdered milk since December 2013. For Lichfield, the GEA experts developed several innovations, which simplify the processes on site and reduce the total cost of ownership. In particular, energy efficiency was a key focus for the project team. For instance, the plant requires very little process water as the evaporator condensate is filtered through the membrane of a high-pressure reverse osmosis system and, because of the GEA technology, this water can be re-used during processing. As a result, Fonterra is required to maintain much less wastewater treatment capacity at the site. By focusing on overall equipment efficiency, energy consumption and waste minimization, the completed milk processing plant is one of the most efficient in the industry.
Fonterra belongs to of the major milk producers in the world. Its Chief Operating Officer Robert Spurway points out the strategic importance of powder production to the co-operative’s overall asset mix: “Premium milk powder is a valuable product for us. The capacity the new Lichfield plant takes the pressure off during the peak of the season, meaning we have more freedom to prioritize milk into higher returning products.” Fonterra will export the premium milk powder from Lichfield to as many as 20 markets, including the Middle East, China and South-East Asia. The official opening of the milk processing plant in Lichfield is scheduled for December 2016.
“Highly-productive and efficient spray dryers, such as the one in Lichfield, play a decisive role in the industry“, says Clint Brown, responsible for the GEA operation in New Zealand. “The demand for milk in the expanding markets, such as China, can only be met by easily transportable and stable milk powder. This is processed regionally into various dairy products with the help of other GEA technologies”. To this purpose, the GEA experts plan, construct and deliver complete systems and components for production, process cooling, drying, filling and packaging of dairy products.