Suiker Unie refining thick juice
Suiker Unie started its annual campaign to refine thick juice into granulated sugar this week. Despite the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus guidance, the sugar factories in Dinteloord and Vierverlaten were able to complete their maintenance and investment programmes on time. “Our people deserve a massive compliment,” says plant manager Luc Kroes.
The sugar factories produced about 400,000 tonnes of thick juice during the sugar beet campaign and have been storing it in three tanks in Dinteloord and two tanks in Vierverlaten. By first making this intermediate product, the factories are able to process significantly more sugar beet. It then takes about 15 days to process the thick juice in a single storage tank into sugar. The Vierverlaten factory will therefore operate for about 30 days and the Dinteloord factory for between 40 and 45 days until the end of June / early July. In total, the factories will produce about 250,000 tonnes of sugar. Only the sugar of the factories will be operating round the clock.
“Dinteloord will produce about 150,000 tonnes of white sugar, equal to our entire silo storage capacity here,” Luc Kroes continues. “To prepare the factories, we started on the maintenance programme immediately after the end of the sugar beet campaign (in mid-January) and began to make substantial investments, such as the replacement of five of the ten white sugar centrifuges. The coronavirus measures announced in mid-March made the work a lot more complicated. Everyone had to work one and a half metres apart from each other, for example. What’s more, we were working with a German supplier that installed the centrifuges together with our own people and then tested them and trained the operators. This made the work doubly complex, not least at the border. We also had to put the annual production operations to make sugar in all possible sieve sizes back into top condition in less than a week despite all the corona restrictions. That we managed to get it all done was a fantastic achievement.”
The thick juice is also being refined in accordance with the “one and a half metre economy” and the hygiene rules issued by the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). “Stickers and a floor plan clearly show where our operators must sit in the central control room. We’ve also set rules on how many people can enter the control room, how they can get past each other and so on. We are doing everything we can to keep corona at bay.”