Avebe and Wafilin Systems B.V. joined forces to develop a sustainable alternative for evaporating potato juice to extract protein from starch potatoes.

DUCAM: sustainable concentration of potato juice using membranes

Avebe and Wafilin Systems B.V. joined forces to develop a sustainable alternative for evaporating potato juice to extract protein from starch potatoes. This process is called ‘DUCAM’: a Dutch acronym for ‘sustainable concentration of potato juice using membranes’. The DUCAM membrane filtration system is installed in the Avebe production site in Ter Apelkanaal. This process saves energy and water by recycling potato juice for reuse as process water.

The benefits of DUCAM

Additional to water recovery, proteins extracted from food processes using our innovative separation technique has excellent stability which is critical to maintain native amino acid characteristics.

  • Energy reduction
  • Water reuse
  • C02 reduction
  • Applicable to other biorefining processes
  • Higher protein yield

The project

Biorefining can extract valuable products from agricultural crops. One obstacle is that these crops often contain a lot of water. This requires energy-intensive processes to extract these products from high volumes of crops. Especially in the extraction of protein from starch potatoes at Avebe. Starch potatoes contain 75% water, and the protein is dissolved in this water. The potato juice is heated to separate the protein. The leftover juice is evaporated into Protamylasse, a product with salt and amino acids. Avebe boils and evaporates around a billion litres of potato juice every year.

The development

In 2014, the Sustainable and cost-effective production process for starch and starch derivatives project was launched by Wafilin Systems and Avebe. This consisted of a pilot to concentrate potato juice with membrane technology. Membrane technology can be used to concentrate potato juice, reducing the energy needed for protein extraction and for evaporation. The starch industry and Wafilin Systems had deployed membrane technology for this application in the 90’s, but with limited results. At that time the process was not sufficient due to the high level of membrane contamination caused by fibers from the potato juice, making the technique financially unattractive. After a multi-year pilot study to find and select the right membranes, Wafilin Systems has successfully developed the optimal process and membrane cleaning design.

The solution

The combined use of ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis is new to the starch industry. Thanks to the unique process control system, ultrafiltration is now far less susceptible to contamination, enabling a higher concentration factor. This allows Avebe to reduce its volume flow from 240 cubic metres per hour to just 80m3/hour. This means it takes a lot less boiling and evaporation to extract the proteins. The water extracted by means of ultrafiltration then passes through an even finer filter; reverse osmosis, this process removes minerals and other components. Resulting in a clean water stream that can be used as process water.

The result

This new membrane application saves 30% of the energy for protein extraction and evaporation, and reduces CO2 emissions by 13,000 metric tonnes a year. In addition, 400.000 m3 of water from potatoes is upgraded for reuse as process water in the plant. Avebe is already preparing to deploy DUCAM technology at other production sites. And this innovation could achieve impressive energy and water savings in other biorefining processes as well.

The DUCAM project provides energy-saving process steps that are added to the existing production process at Avebe. Erik Koops, Director Energy transition & Utilities Manager at Avebe says:

The DUCAM project marks a major step towards meeting our sustainablitiy goals. We can use it to save a great deal of water, energy and CO2. I am proud of what we’ve accomplished along with a small team.

This project involved close collaboration with various regional partners in addition to Avebe, such as Westra RVS, Kampen Industrial Care, Beenen Industrial Automation and Berghof Membranes.

A recognised innovation

The DUCAM project has been honoured as the Water Innovator of the Year 2021. Every year,  Watervisie organisation seeks out companies with innovative solutions for cheaper, more sustainable and more efficient use of industrial water. To learn more about the Water Innovator of the Year competition, click here.

Want to know more DUCAM?

DUCAM can achieve impressive energy and water savings in other biorefining processes. Interested in what it can mean for you?