Getting more, using less: how enzymes increase yield and deliver sustainability benefits

The launch of Purifine® PLA1, DSM’s new enzyme solution for vegetable oil producers, complements our portfolio of enzymes and delivers on the yield increase and strict specifications that processors are seeking. Here, our Oils & Fats portfolio expert Ying Zha shares her insight into how today’s oil processing plants can get more from their seed.

What are the main challenges facing vegetable oil processors today?

I think the key challenge facing all oil processors – sunflower, canola, rapeseed and particularly soybean – is the pressure to improve yield in a cost-sensitive process. In other words, to get more from the valuable natural resource, the seed, without a big investment. There’s also an increasing responsibility, in an increasingly circular economy, to do this in a mindful way: one that ensures business benefits are harmonized with sustainability benefits. Considering how much oil some processors refine in one day – 500 metric tons! – single-digit yield increase is a significant improvement.

Oil processors also need to meet strict specifications for phosphorus in order for the end product to have an adequate shelf life. Any change to their process could put this at risk, so it’s a constant challenge.

And like any production environment, oil processors also need to maintain an efficient process and deliver consistent performance, batch after batch, all while maintaining a safe and clean operation.

Those are not small challenges – how can an enzyme like Purifine® PLA1 help?

Enzymes can help in several different ways, but one of their key benefits is that they’re a natural way to boost process efficiency. Being able to deliver on the ‘hard’ results that matter to producers – higher yield, meeting tight phosphorus specifications and robust performance – is the clear value of using enzymes. And getting a cleaner, safer process, using fewer chemicals, at the same time is also quite advantageous.

Let’s looks specifically at yield: using an enzyme solution like our new Purifine® PLA1 can improve yield up to 2% over conventional refining. Again, given the volume of even a mid-sized refinery, that’s a substantial increase. Importantly, oil processors don’t need to pay a high price to gain that improvement. Compared to the current enzymatic solution in the market, the required dosage for Purifine® PLA1 is equal, or in many cases lower – so processors get more with less and get a lower cost-in-use. Our enzyme also has a higher reaction temperature (up to 70°C) and eliminates the need for caustic (chemical) additions because it works at a lower pH. This delivers better oil separation and results in a clean centrifuge, thanks to the liquid lyso-gums. These benefits contribute directly to a simpler, safer, more efficient and cleaner process.

The key here is being able to replicate these results every time. We’ve exhaustively tested our enzymes with different oil types, in different quantities and on an industrial scale, and saw consistent performance for both yield increase and reaching required phosphorus specifications. We have labs in every key region and can show these results to customers.

How does DSM help oil processors secure all these benefits of implementing PLA1?

It’s a big undertaking to bring new technology into a plant, so we’ve structured our support network of application experts and labs to ease the process of conducting a plant trial. We work very closely with customers to make our enzymes work in their specific environment, and we’re committed to showing them the results. We also check other important ‘boxes’; for example, although Purifine® PLA1 is a new enzyme, it has already been broadly approved, including Brazil, Argentina, the US and China.

Customers can send a sample to our labs, where we analyze the composition of the oil to define a customized trial set-up specifically for them, and so maximize the likelihood of a first-time-right trial.

Putting it another way, we speak the same language, and in an oil refining plant, that language is focused on maximizing yield and keeping the plant running smoothly and performing consistently.

Are there other advantages to using enzymes in oil processing?

One of the areas that DSM is passionate about is maximizing production efficiency in a sustainable way. Our solutions are created with this in mind – making processes more efficient and less harmful to the planet at the same time. Oil processors using our enzyme solutions will reap several sustainability benefits; for example, they will save on energy costs because there’s less need for heat exchanging. We actually conducted a lifecycle assessment to analyze the carbon footprint of a conventional vs. enzymatic refining process using Purifine® PLA1. The results reveal that Purifine® PLA1 reduces the carbon footprint of the production process by 30-35%. For a mid-sized refinery, that means an annual reduction of 5,000 tons of CO2 emissions. Bearing in mind that the world is moving towards putting a real and meaningful price on carbon emissions, this is something that forward-thinking producers should be looking at closely.

These may be considered by some to be ‘soft’ benefits of using enzymes, but they’re The energy efficiency benefits of using enzymes are highly complementary to the yield increase and guaranteed phosphorus specifications of oil processing with Purifine® PLA1.

Want to find out more about boosting your resource efficiency and reducing energy costs getting more from your seed and boosting plant performance? Click here to contact Ying.

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Published on

19 January 2023