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NIZO helps identify UDA spray dryer fouling issues

By Mark Astley+

18-Feb-2014

With the help of Dutch research organization NIZO, US cooperative United Dairymen of Arizona (UDA) has overcome fouling issues and now boasts “longer hours of operation” on its spray drying lines. 

After experiencing an increase in production downtime caused by powder build-up in the spray dryers at its manufacturing site in Tempe near Phoenix last year, UDA drafted in NIZO Food Research to conduct a scan of its processes.

As a result of the review, NIZO and UDA were able to pinpoint the reasons for the dryer chamber fouling and determine alternative processing settings, Steve Baxley, vice president of operation at UDA, told DairyReporter.com.

“...NIZO helped us identify several causes and gave us short term and long term options to reduce overall fouling," said Baxley. "This led to longer hours of operation before a cleaning cycle had to be performed.”

Reducing costs

UDA commissioned NIZO to conduct a review of its drying operations after a chance meeting at an International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) event.

“We knew of the reputation that NIZO had in the field of dairy research,” said Baxley. “This brought on a meeting to discuss what NIZO could do for my facility and the challenges we face.”

Using the Dutch research organization's Premia software platform, which evaluates and predicts product properties bases on settings and conditions such as inlet air humidity, temperature, and outlet air properties, UDA was able to determine specific points within its spray drying processes that could be improved.

“NIZO did two things for us during our recent work together,” said Baxley.

“We did extensive testing and modelling on spore growth within our two large evaporator/dryer processes and testing and evaluation to help identify why we had fouling in one of our dryer operations.”

“They also set the groundwork for further extensive air and temperature modelling," he said.

This assessment resulted in a reduction in powder build-up and extended run times – in turn, reducing costs at a higher output.

Finished product quality

UDA’s seventy supplier members produce around 3.5bn pounds (1.6bn litres) of milk annually. It manufactures high, medium, and low heat non-fat dry milk (NFDM), milk protein concentrate (MPC), cream butter, skim milk, condensed skim milk, and lactose powder.

Around a third of the milk sourced by UDA is later sold as dry dairy ingredients both domestically and abroad.

Given UDA's DairyAmerica membership - through which UDA's entire NFDM yield is marketed regionally, nationally, and internationally - the review conducted by NIZO was essential, said Baxley.

“This was particularly important for our finished product quality as well as length of operation between clean in place cycles," he said. "Our ability to market our finished products through DairyAmerica are directly related to our finished product quality.”