Enzyme sets new standard in starch processing
Every commercial trial in North America led to implementation
With promises of chemical, water, energy and cash savings, Novozymes launched LpHera in February 2014, aiming to change the way starch processors consider liquefaction. 14 months later and the company report implementation by many of the industry’s largest players.
Starch production relies on enzymes during processing, and alpha amylases are used in liquefaction. Although biotechnology companies have improved their alpha amylases during the past 40 years, the chemical intensive liquefaction process remained largely the same.
“LpHera breaks conventions and simplifies the process,” says Frederik Mejlby, Marketing Director for Novozymes’ Grain Processing. “I can’t imagine any customer returning to the old way of liquefaction after trying LpHera. Every sweetener plant in North America that commercially trialed LpHera has actually since implemented it.”
“We’re very excited to get such positive feedback from the market,” says Frederik Mejlby. “Just last week we received an innovation award from one of our customers for LpHera. This highlights the value of the product and how we can create impact when we partner with our customers.”
Cash savings for starch processors
Traditionally, liquefaction takes place at pH 5.5-5.8, and chemicals are used to raise pH levels before liquefaction and again at the end of the process to ensure the lower pH necessary for the next step in starch processing, saccharification. LpHera brings the liquefaction pH level as low as 4.5-4.8, which reduces the need for the pH chemicals by 50-60% before and after liquefaction.
“Starch processors are halving the amount of pH chemicals needed for liquefaction with LpHera. Less chemicals added means less chemicals to remove in the ion exchange operation. The ion exchange columns can run 10-15% longer before regeneration is needed, and this reduces the need for regeneration chemicals. So there are significant chemical savings with LpHera savings,” says Frederik Mejlby.
LpHera is also designed to break down starch in a way that creates more dextrose when compared to the conventional enzymes used during this process stage. As a result, the level of dry substance may increase, leading to savings in steam, water and energy for evaporation.
“We’re estimating that LpHera can save a starch processor up to 1 to 1.2 USD per metric ton of substrate,” says Mejlby.
Starch plants vary in size and can process from 0.2 to over 1 million ton of substrate each year. Based on Novozymes’ estimates, if a plant process 0.5 million ton of substrate, they can save up to 600.000 dollars per year using LpHera.
Snapshot of the starch industry
- Starch is the energy source of plants and can be found in cereals, tubers, roots and other plants.
- Approximately 60 million tons of starch is converted into sweeteners and ingredients per year
- These sweeteners are used in a wide variety of popular consumer food products, including confectionery, soft drinks, sauces and canned fruits
- There are four basic steps involved – separation, liquefaction, saccharification and isomerization
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