During my time in New Orleans for the Siemens Automation Summit, I had the opportunity to tour Louisiana Sugar Refining, LLC (LSR) in nearby Gramercy, La. In Louisiana, sugar is a big business. According to the American Sugar Cane League, Louisiana produces approximately 20 percent of the sugar grown in the U.S. It is being produced on more than 400,000 acres of land in 22 Louisiana parishes.
LSR is more than 100 years old and was established to incorporate more than 800 sugar cane farmers into the industry’s economic structure and to stabilize and encourage growth in the industry. Pumps play an important role in the sugar refining process. LSR uses centrifugal pumps to separate the syrup from the sugar crystals. The $190 million refinery has the ability to refine two billion pounds of white sugar per year and provides jobs for about 180 residents. The refinery distributes molasses and granulated sugar to commercial and retail customers in the U.S.
Construction for a new refinery at the Gramercy location began in February 2010. The new refinery was completed in December of 2011 and uses the latest innovations in technology. The refinery is completely automated using Siemens automation systems. This allows the larger facility to operate with higher efficiency, in part by reducing the number of people it takes to operate, and reducing steam and electrical use. The new plant was the first grassroots sugar refinery in the U.S. in 40 years, and building the new refinery presented some challenges.
Ernie Garner, the IT & automation manager for LSR, spoke about the challenges they faced during his presentation, “Manufacturing Renaissance in the U.S. Sugar Industry,” at the Siemens Automation Summit. Some of the challenges included finding engineering resources and learning to operate a 110-year old plant while commissioning a new one. The process and automation systems that were implemented at the new plant provided several benefits that contributed to higher efficiency. The systems allowed LSR to quickly configure and start up the process and gave them the ability to control the technology that has been used in processing for years—all while operating on a historic site.
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