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FoodTech Report

Volume 9 Issue 2

Energy-Efficient Evaporation Technology Helps California Processors with Both Regulation and Profit

By Paul Favia, West area sales manager for JBT FoodTech

The T.A.S.T.E. pre-concentrates tomatoes fed into a traditional evaporator for final concentration, saving energy and maintaining quality.

The World Processing Tomato Council reports that 11 to 12 million tons of tomatoes are produced on average in the state of California—approximately one quarter to one third of total global production. Processed tomatoes are most often made into tomato paste, which is used in many popular foods that meet consumers’ busy lifestyles – such as pizza, canned and frozen ready meals, soups, juice, ketchup and sauces.

In 2006, California food processors encountered an obstacle when the state legislature passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) with the goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This law, which went into effect in 2012, requires California businesses to contribute in the fight against climate change by either reducing energy consumption by two percent annually or by purchasing carbon credits.

Today's tomato-processing industry is challenged to balance legislative compliance while striving to increase their output and decrease their energy usage. This challenge is heightened due to tomato paste production being an inherently energy-intensive process and tomato processors have a small window of time for processing as much product as possible while the tomatoes are still fresh. This requires companies to operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week during the short season and to bypass any time-of-use energy cost saving opportunities. Additionally, conventional technology for concentrating tomatoes involves repeatedly circulating the tomato juice through multiple heating stages. Long duration heating can have a negative impact on the quality of the finished product, and in the early stages of the concentration process, does not allow for the most efficient use of steam energy.

Enter JBT FoodTech's energy-efficient Thermally Accelerated Short-Time Evaporator (T.A.S.T.E). This technology enables tomato-paste processors to use less heat than conventional evaporation processes, resulting in reduced energy consumption and improved end-product quality.

This unique evaporator technology features a patented distribution cone for uniform liquid distribution into heat-exchanger pipes and can be implemented into an existing processing line. Installations can be configured with as many as six evaporating effects to dramatically reduce steam consumption per unit of evaporated water and increase the output of existing equipment.

Quicker Concentration to Maintain Quality

The primary way that processors can benefit from the T.A.S.T.E. is by using the technology as a pre-evaporator to remove the first half of the tomatoes water content before the product is fed into a traditional force circulation evaporator for final concentration. Tomato paste quality is equal—or even better—when using the T.A.S.T.E. as a pre-evaporator due to low thermal damage experienced during this first-stage treatment.

After passing through the T.A.S.T.E. pre-evaporator and its modified falling film design, tomatoes concentrate to eight percent sugar in a three-minute single pass. By comparison, a traditional forced-circulation concentrator takes an hour to achieve that same level of concentration.

Simple, Dependable Operations

Streamlined operation requirements means the T.A.S.T.E. doesn't require supervision during processing—unlike traditional forced circulation evaporators that require close monitoring and periodic adjustments. The T.A.S.T.E. Evaporator features an automatic control system that, in conjunction with the mechanical design of the system, maintains the right balance of temperature and vacuum in each phase of the system for consistent, optimal performance levels.

Maintenance Made Easy
Every six to seven days, the T.A.S.T.E. goes through a three-hour cleaning cycle that requires no supervision. In fact, processing remains online during the T.A.S.T.E. cleaning cycle as raw tomatoes can temporarily feed directly into the forced-circulation evaporator for the full concentration process. Conventional forced-circulation evaporators take 12-24 hours for cleaning, and most involve operator supervision.

The T.A.S.T.E. drives tomato juice through the tubenest at speeds up to 435 mph (700 kph). With this technique, the heat transfer rate is several times higher than it would be if the juice was undergoing recirculation and minimizes the length of time the juice is exposed to heat.

Industry-Proven Results

In 2010, a leading California-based tomato processor installed a T.A.S.T.E. into its existing tomato paste processing line. By adding the T.A.S.T.E. pre-evaporator to the line, the processor has been able to increase production of concentrated tomato paste by more than thirty five percent with the addition of only 10,000 pounds/hour of steam—a reduction in its overall energy input per pound of product.

The combination of energy savings and higher production provided a return on investment in just two years. The boost in production facilitated by the T.A.S.T.E. increased profits by over $10 per minute, amounting to nearly $2 million over the course of a 100-day harvest season.

It is likely that climate related regulations will eventually spread outside of California to other states and countries. JBT FoodTech's T.A.S.T.E. supports the tomato industry in achieving compliance with climate-change legislation while also providing a means to minimize energy inputs and increase output and profitability. 

For more information about the T.A.S.T.E. evaporator and other tomato processing technologies, visit the JBT FoodTech website. Learn more about how T.A.S.T.E. technology prevents product damage in Vol. 7, Issue 1 of FoodTech Report.

©2012 JBT Corporation. All rights reserved.

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