Cantley beet sugar factory’s flying performance as £12m investment arrives

Cranes and heavy lifting equipment ready to lift the new cooling tower into place from the barge moo

Cranes and heavy lifting equipment ready to lift the new cooling tower into place from the barge moored on the River Yare next to Cantley Factory.The lifting process gets underway.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

It took several years to design the two new evaporators ahead of the delivery by sea-going barge to the Cantley factory.

A total of 270 tonnes of energy-saving equipment, including an 87-tonne pre-scalder, arrived shortly after 11.30am at the end of its 470-mile journey from Lille in northern France on Tuesday.

The three purpose-built stainless steel vessels included a 23-metre high evaporator, which weighed 114 tonnes. It had to be lifted off the 66-metre barge in a precision operation, using two cranes. The 1,000-tonne telescopic crane was able to start the lift once the steel hawsers had been attached around the bosses at the top of the evaporator. However, a smaller 500-tonne crane was also involved in the tandem lift. Both cranes had to take the load clear of the barge before it was possible to raise the top of the vessel into a more upright position.

It was imperative that it was lifted above the barge because of the potential to damage the 3.5 bar pressure-tested vessel. The lifting operation for the biggest vessel took about 40 minutes to complete, which involved placing it inch-perfect ready to attach to bolts sunk six foot into the ground. The other smaller vessel, weighed about 80 tonnes, was placed on the other side of the steel gantry, erected by Great Yarmouth-based Armultra.

This latest £12m investment, which will make the factory significantly more energy efficient, has been warmly welcomed by about 500 beet growers, who supply about 18pc of the national crop to Cantley.

As the factory uses heavy fuel oil and coal to power its boilers, this new equipment will reduce energy consumption and make the refinery even more competitive. However, it will not be operating until the start of the 2014 campaign because it will take months more work to complete all the connections.

Beet growers have been delighted that under factory manager, Steve Lynn, it processed more than 10,000 tonnes in each of the last three days over the weekend – significantly more than the 9,000-tonne budget slice.

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And Cantley's flying performance has continued, according to Mid-Norfolk grower, Robert Hambidge, who also welcomed the latest investment. 'Cantley is really doing well,' he added, as the factory has continued to slice close to record volumes of beet.

This investment follows British Sugar's plans at Norfolk's oldest established beet sugar refinery to increase the capacity of 'thick juice' or part-refined sugar storage from the existing 14,800 tonnes, which were approved this autumn. It will increase the height of two sugar syrup tanks and add a new storage silo, which would increase the site's total storage capacity to about 50,000 tonnes.

With the factory able to produce about 2,000 tonnes of part-refined sugar each day, it only had about seven days' storage. Other factories have the ability to refine out of campaign because they process stored 'thick juice.'

The plans for the Cantley factory, which marked its centenary as the first modern beet sugar refinery in 1912, include a new silo standing 28.2m high with a 50-metre diameter. The two existing tanks will be raised by 4.27m and the largest by 4.37m.

One of the largest investments in storage was made in 1991 when a new tank was built, which used 'hover' technology to float a massive sugar storage tank to a new position.