A Confluence of Process Optimization

How French Oil works with industry to achieve process improvements
By Bryan Sims | October 25, 2011

When Alfred Willard French founded French Oil Mill Machinery Co. in 1900, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and veteran of the linseed oil industry believed that engineering creativity and research could produce superior vegetable oil mill machinery. Today, the 110-year-old company is applying those founding principles not only to the industrial food oil markets, but it’s also serving the burgeoning biodiesel industry through the offering of its Innovation Center in Piqua, Ohio.

By working closely with French Oil’s team of experienced engineers, customers are able to optimize and fine-tune their extraction process through lab tests on the company’s processing equipment, such as conditioners, screw presses or extruders, for obtaining desired processing results prior to ordering the equipment, says Tayte French Lutz, marketing coordinator for French Oil.

“We’ve performed many tests on a variety of different products over the years,” Lutz tells Biodiesel Magazine. “It’s valuable for us to see how our equipment can be used and what other markets there are for our equipment, but of course it’s great for our customers who can use our equipment to test their materials and their process to see exactly how much residual oil they can get from their products and improve their process based on information learned in the trials.”

While the company has years of experience testing common biodiesel oilseed feedstocks such as canola, soybeans and jatropha, the company has also tested other oil-bearing materials, including grape seed, moringa, paprika, walnut, hemp, corn germ, apricots, peach pits, coffee beans and chili peppers. “Some produce more oil than others,” she notes.

French Oil’s Innovation Center offers process optimization of its equipment to companies that integrate biodiesel and agribusiness processes, says Lutz. Can Pro Ingredients Ltd., for example, which processes canola and alfafa, partnered with French Oil in November 2005 to optimize the proprietary fractionation equipment it uses at its plant in Arborfield, Saskatchewan, Canada. The canola is processed into high-quality extra virgin oil, and press cake, which is used in a protein concentrate. 

“There have been some other customers in the biodiesel industry that have taken advantage of the Innovation Center,” Lutz says, adding that an undisclosed biodiesel producer has been conducting trials for more than two years with the company. “It’s been a great project for us and them,” she says.
While a specific cost of conducting performance trial testing at French Oil’s Innovation Center varies by project, Lutz assures, “The cost is very manageable for customers in the crushing and agribusiness industry,” she says, “especially considering  these companies are spending millions and millions of dollars to get their processes up and running, so our costs are incredibly manageable considering the overall spending for startups.”

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