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International Aquafeed is published five times a year by Perendale Publishers Ltd of the United Kingdom. All data is published in good faith, based on information received, and while every care is taken to prevent inaccuracies, the publishers accept no liability for any errors or omissions or for the consequences of action taken on the basis of information published. ©Copyright 2009 Perendale Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior permission of the copyright owner. Printed by Perendale Publishers Ltd. ISSN: 1464-0058
The International magazine for the aquaculture feed industry
as part of the pelleting process
by Harold Schroijen, Van Aarsen International, The Netherlands
hile conditioning is a process that has kept the attention of the modern feed milling industry for some time now, the pelleting process of press meal is a subject that is no longer considered to be very important. It needs to be understood that feed milling is about the balance between the different processes being used. As one process is linked to another, it is difficult to discuss only one process without having to take another into consideration. I plan a discussion of two processes, which interact frequently with one another and also with all the other processes used in the feed milling industry.
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guaranteeing “first-in, first-out”, were ripeners; a kind of cooking vessel which has been in the feed milling industry for over 20 years and in many varieties. The main concern when using the ripeners in the feed milling industry is contamination but when much longer conditioning times (that is >4 minutes) are required, the ripeners are still a valid option. As already stated the conditioning process is about optimisation and therefore the time factor is mainly determined by the
conditioning temperature and the formulation. The temperature level can be varied according to the retention time in order to avoid destructive effects on the nutrients in the feed (that is protein de-naturation). Whereas the formulation has an influence on the retention time meaning that the optimum availability of nutrients in the feed can be reached as well as optimising the physical quality of the pellets. Recently other aspects have had to be taken into account due to consumer concerns, for instance Salmonella. Also this needs to be considered and treated in the conditioning process.
Conditioning is a process in the feed milling industry, which takes place from intake to out-loading. However, in many cases when referring to conditioning, it is the treatment of press meal prior to the pelleting process that is meant. Conditioning of press meal is a process with the variables time, humidity, tempera-
ture and pressure. Pressure is only used in unconventional processes where expander or extruder techniques are being used. In the conventional conditioning process, only time, humidity and temperature are applicable. Whereas in the past the aim of conditioning was to optimise the pelleting process, nowadays it is much more the intention to optimise the nutritional and physical quality of the feed. When using the variables in the conventional conditioning process, it should first need to be understood that temperature and humidity are related as steam is generally used to increase the temperature of the press meal. Furthermore, there is also a maximum level of humidity of the press meal in order to avoid blockages of the pellet press. In general it can be said that the maximum percentage of steam that can be added to the press meal is approximately maximum five percent and for each percentage of dry steam added, the temperature of the press meal will increase by approximately 15 deg C. Of course, the steam quality is influential and the above mentioned values are only applicable when a good quality steam is
being used. Besides steam quality, the influence of the humidity of raw materials as well as the feed composition are of great importance. Steam quality and steam quantity control are subjects enough alone to warrant further discussion, however, in many practical cases, steam quality and steam control are subjects that are not usually given the attention they need in order to optimise the conditioning process. As temperature and humidity are strongly related, the actual variable available in a conventional conditioning process is time. It should, however, be kept in mind that the conditioning process is an optimisation and not a maximsation. Where single conditioners were a common choice for quite a number of years, now double and even triple conditioners are being used prior to the pelleting process. Conditioning times lasted, in most cases, less than a minute and more importantly these types of conditioners did not guarantee the “first-in, first-out” principle. For many years, the only conventional conditioning process that could guarantee a given time and that extended a maximum retention time of one minute, while also
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40 | InternatIonal AquAFeed | May-June 2011
May-June 2011 | InternatIonal AquAFeed | 41
Time Conditioner, facilitating the control and the required height is easily a few less meters. All these features have been integrated into one conventional conditioner, which is called the “Conditioner LTC”. For a standard control a PLC is integrated into the pelleting line control system and for a more sophisticated control a PressM@ nager, the Van Aarsen pelleting line automation based on remote I/O with intelligence (meaning the system is capable of achieving even higher goals than a well-trained pellet mill operator). course, is related to the capacity of the pellet mill. Therefore, when comparing dies, the aspects that need to be considered are the types of material to be used, the hardness and whether surface hardening or complete hardening will be used, the number of holes or the open area surface (OAS) and the wall thickness of the die including possible counter-drill. When discussing capacity, using the same formulation and the required pellet quality, the die surface of the pellet mill (with the same OAS) and the die thickness are the major factors influencing capacity. These together with the drive installed, determine the KW per cm2, which is a factor to be considered when researching the operational costs. Practical trials carried out under 100 percent identical circumstances, have indicated that differences in operational costs among different types of pellet mills can vary up to EUR50,000 per year which are, of course, significant figures, but realistic nevertheless. Van Aarsen pellet mills are well know for their design criteria, a huge die surface and low die speed so that an acceptable capacity is reached while still maintaining focus on pellet quality (which is also influenced by the retention time of the press meal in the die). This, of course, combined with an intermediate drive allowing the possibility to change die speed relatively easily (changing a small pulley) without installing frequency controllers for the generally larger drives used on pellet mills. Furthermore, large roller diameters create a small angle between the die and the roller, which compacts the feed smoothly before forced it into the die. Of course, variables differ when using the pellet mill for traditional, untraditional or aqua feed but the principles remain the same. As circumstances differ constantly, only general guidelines can be provided except for when detailed information is available and a custom-made solution given by those in the feed milling industry with both feed on the ground. The global go-getters of Van Aarsen are always ready and willing to assist in optimising a processes, resulting in higher returns and more ease in operation.
Therefore, the new generation of conventional conditioners (without using pressure) are focussing on the variables time, temperature and humidity where time is maximised to four minutes at temperatures of approximately 85 deg C and capacities of up to 20tph. These types of conditioners should guarantee a “first-in, first-out” while also guaranteeing retention time. The principle is rather simple as generally the feed is brought up to the required temperature by means of steam and subsequently transferred into a large screw conveyor in which the speed of the mash is determined by a frequency controller. The screw conveyor is steam or electrically heated and insulated. So, by means of the filling degree and the frequency (at a certain pitch of the screw), retention time can be guaranteed. For those involved with feed milling practises, it is well known that there are a few concerns. Firstly, the height of installation for this new generation of conditioners is not often available. For this reason, Van Aarsen International BV in The Netherlands is able to position the conditioner beside the Long Time Conditioner (LTC). The second concern is the control of the pelleting process because the long retention time leads to a delayed reaction of the pellet press on changed variables. This complicates the matter even further due to the fact that the pellet mill cannot be fed directly from the retention time screw. Some suppliers therefore use small intermediate bins between the retention time screw and the pellet press with a feeding screw for the pellet press below the bin, leading possibly to contamination as well as loss of temperature. Once again more height is required and control becomes even more critical to maintain due to the use of buffer bins. In order to avoid this, Van Aarsen has integrated a feeding device in the Long
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After conditioning of the press meal either the mash is cooled when heattreated mash is required (for instance breeders) or, in most cases, the pelleting process starts. The pelleting process also has an effect on the nutritional as well as the physical quality of the feed. Experience has shown that it is not only the capacity of the pellet mill but the formulation, die specifications as well as the required pellet quality are also aspects that should be taken into account. Where a Van Aarsen C900 is producing 45tph in South America, the same machine is capable of reaching a capacity of 18tph in a Dutch environment.The big difference can be explained by formulation, die specifications and the required pellet quality. Also a proper conditioning process influences the output of the pellet mill. However, the figures above are based on the same conditioning process. Of course, the pellet mill has a number of variables that can be used to optimise the process. These variables vary from speed of the die to hydraulic roller adjustment and should only be used when the influence of these options are thoroughly understood by the operating personnel. This practical know- how could also be delivered by an intelligent pelleting line automation system such as PressM@nager. This system is capable of combining the different variables in order to optimise the process. However, before continuing the pelleting process, a small note needs to be made about the dies being used. As dies of reputable suppliers are generally all of the same material, which is completely hardened, difference is generally found in the open area surface - OAS (that is, the number of holes), which, of
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42 || InternatIonal AquAFeed || May-June 2011 42 InternatIonal AquAFeed May-June 2011
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