Asia’s largest milk powder plant focuses on sustainability with GEA technologies

India’s largest skim milk powder and milk whitener plant is located in Gandhinagar. It is operated by Amul and extends over 26,000 m2 and eight floors. Image: GEA

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 one of the world’s largest producer of milk and milk products. After competitive bidding, GEA being a global technology leader and long-term partner of Amul was the obvious choice to plan and build Asia’s largest milk powder plant at its AmulFed site in Gandhinagar.

The focus at the new AmulFed site in Gandhinagar was set on sustainable production with innovative and future proof GEA technologies. GEA was responsible for the complete turnkey project, from milk processing to powder packing and including auxiliary systems, electricals, utilities, piping and automation. The plant was completed in record time so that it could be commissioned in time for this year’s flush season, the peak milk production season in India.

The scale of the powder plant, which covers 26,000 m2, and is eight stories in height, was unprecedented in the Indian dairy sector. The automated GEA 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 mean that AmulFed is now the largest single-site skimmed milk powder facility with capacity of 310 TPD in Asia,” explains Rajesh Golani, head of Sales Support and Offer Management, GEA India.

“We had series of interactions with AmulFed during the planning phase on the selection of suitable technology, superior features regarding energy efficiency, productivity, sustainability, plant and product safety, eco-friendliness, hygiene, zoning concepts and product quality, so that everybody was able to evaluate every aspect, and efficacy of the new plant at par with global standards,” Golani says.

The AmulFed plant had to be completed in record time, and within a very tight timescale. “The biggest achievement is that we could complete this whole project within 20 months. Our flush had started and we needed this capacity. We are thankful to GEA that they completed this project on time,” explains Dr Rupinder Singh Sodhi, managing director, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, Amul.

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. The highest capacity and quality manufacturing at AmulFed mean that milk at peak loads is processed and converted into valued-added products, including skimmed milk powder, dairy whitener, and whole milk powder.

The end-to-end solution includes GEA’s energy efficient separators with integrated direct drive, bacteria removing clarifiers, high pressure homogenizers and hygienic valves for the liquid milk processing, as well as the largest GEA MVR evaporators delivered to India to date. These evaporators 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, which makes AmulFed nearly a zero-water plant. “Impressively, one hundred percent of evaporated water is condensed and reused in the dairy plant.” comments Dr Rupinder Singh Sodhi.

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. Image: GEA

After evaporation, the milk concentrate is transferred 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. Because drying is carried out in three stages, it results into higher energy efficiency. The exhaust air from the dryer passes through four cyclones to GEA’s largest available SANICIP bag filter, and the fines discharged from the bag filter are then returned to the drying chamber, saving product and enabling nearly zero emissions.

AmulFed also operates an automated, high speed 25kg bag filling line, supplied by GEA, which features total bag control, and an enclosed filling area. With this system, manually handling of unfilled bags is no longer necessary, which minimizes contamination risk and helps to ensure complete safety. The plant also operates retail and jar filling lines, so it can be used flexible to match changing market and consumer demands.

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

“We looked at the competency of GEA to provide us with a fully automatic plant. We aimed 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,” explains Anilkumar Bayati, general manager, AmulFed Dairy. “It’s a completely integrated setup right from our milk processing to our packaging. The products manufactured are of global standard and the 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.”

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