Project Synopsis

Evaluate a variety of processes at an edible oil plant to determine sources of yield loss, recommend improvements to measurement systems, and provide current mass and energy balances.

Project Summary


Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) was contracted by the client, an edible oil producer, to provide process engineering assistance for its Hydrogenator, Deodorizer, Dewaxing, and Bleaching operations.  Measurement systems associated with these units limited the staff’s ability to monitor in-process production rates which affected the accuracy of their inventory tracking systems. PROCESS was asked to complete an on-site survey to evaluate each process and determine sources of yield loss, recommend improvements to measurement systems, and provide current mass and energy balances.

PROCESS’ steady-state commercial computer simulation software, CHEMCAD, was used to develop mass & energy balances (H&MBs)for the Hydrogenator and Deodorizer units.  Using the model, material losses were quantified and compared with literature values.  Based on these data, PROCESS discovered excess losses from the Deodorizer which were attributed to the use of excess stripping steam.  PROCESS provided the client with recommended stripping steam rates based on the quality of the Deodorizer feed.  PROCESS then developed a production lot tracking system.  With this program, process data is input into an Excel interface linked via Visual Basic Applications (VBA) to the process simulator, CHEMCAD.  Using this system, complete material and energy balances could be performed for each production run.

PROCESS also performed evaluations of the plant’s Dewaxing and Bleaching systems to determine an overall mass balance, determine sources of preventable losses, and compare the measured production to the reported production.  Within these batch operated units, PROCESS performed mass balances using tank strapping charts and outage measurements.  Even though this method only allowed for coarse accuracy, the balance completed by PROCESS indicated significant discrepancies between actual and reported production rates.  The inconsistency was traced to operating practices rather than actual material losses.  For each batch, operations assigned a fixed production value that did not consider the actual charge volume or rework material added.  As a result, actual production tended to be overstated and, in the case of rework, was double counted.  To correct this problem, PROCESS provided recommendations for charge and product totalizer locations and developed an Excel spreadsheet to track batch production rates and cycle times.

Industry Type

  • FDA Food Grade Oil Production
  • Foods Manufacturing

Utilized Skills

  • Plant operations investigation
  • Process simulation with VBA interfacing
  • Plant operation recommendations

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