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Avatar Technology: Sustainability + Profitability In The Palm Oil Industry


The global focus on environmental sustainability in the palm oil industry, particularly that related to greenhouse gas emissions and the disposal of agro-industrial waste, has promoted the development of various technologies over the last decade seeking to optimize processes thus achieving higher efficiency, increased productivity, and sustainable use of agroindustrial waste.


In response to these industry trends and seeking greater profitability in the palm oil sector, a new technology for the extraction of crude palm oil has been developed based on a new system, dynamic sterilization, commercially known as Avatar Technology, that was developed following the guidelines stipulated for the palm oil extraction industry, where the optimization of water consumption, the elimination of final effluents and the full use of residual biomass, as well as the reduction of oil losses and energy consumption, are proposed. In addition, it makes the operators’ work pleasant and safe, making the business sustainable, profitable, and environmentally friendly; thus, the design and implementation of this novel technology include the fresh fruit treatment before dynamic sterilization and a subsequent pressing of 100% of the fruit, obtaining two final phases (fibrous and liquid) preserving the CPO quality.


Avatar Technology: Dynamic Sterilization consists of a system and procedure for palm oil extraction through the threshing, shredding, dynamic sterilization of the fresh fruit, and its subsequent total pressing; allowing to obtain the best oil extraction rate and the use of 100% of the biomass, converting the empty rachis into optimal fibers for energy generation and/or composting.


Avatar has developed a technological concept that allows the efficient management of mill processing capacities from 6 to 12 tonnes FFB/hour that can be easily and economically expanded to 24-60 tonnes FFB/h and more, based on business growth projections. To expand the capacity in palm oil mills with Avatar Technology, only the number of dynamic sterilizers and the number of screw presses should be increased considering that the projected final capacity and the initial starting capacity must be defined from the beginning, depending on the new volume of fruit to be processed and the average number of hours per day that it is estimated to work.


Some of the advantages of palm oil mill with Avatar Technology over the conventional systems and methods are known in the traditional palm oil extraction industry are the following:

-Optimization of Water Consumption: Avatar Technology requires less than 200 liters of water per FFB tonne to convert it into steam and use it in the sterilization process. In this way, in this technology, it is not necessary to add water in the pressing process since the natural water content of the fresh fruit is used. Thus, dilution water is not required and only uses between 100 - 120 kg of steam in the sterilization stage and a maximum total of 200 kg of steam per FFB processed tonne.


-Biomass Optimization: It allows to obtain of rachis fibers in sizes ranging from approximately 1 to 10 cm in length, with humidity lower than 35%, an absorption capacity of 250% by weight, and with an oil impregnation in fibers from 2% to 3.5 %/NODS (Non-Oily Dry Solids). Additionally, Avatar Technology reduces the generation of final effluents (between 350 and 370 liters/FFB tonne), offering the possibility of making a low-cost compost from the mixture of all the effluents together with the final fibers, to achieve the concept of Zero Waste palm oil mills.Oil Loss Reduction: Avatar Technology reduces process losses by up to 0.2 - 0.35% over total fibers (not including clarification losses), increasing the oil extraction rate.


In this technology, the whole fruit bunch is pressed, avoiding losses due to attached fruits, loose fruits and unthreshed green fruits, and oil impregnation in rachis; in summary, the palm oil mill may have controlled losses, which can vary among 1% +/- 0.2%. This technology is also flexible and appropriate for processing hybrid fruit, considering that this variety does not present nuts, in conventional processing plants it is difficult to press them, while in Avatar Technology the bunches’ fragmented pieces are used in the pressing process.


-Decrease in Operating and Investment Costs: Avatar Technology requires less plant-covered area per installed tonne compared to known conventional processes. The area is necessary for the implementation of this technology is reduced thanks to the elimination of equipment such as rail wagons, tractors for moving trucks or mechanical systems, rail wagon turners, threshing drums, and empty bunches presses, among others. In this way, by reducing the number of processing machines, a reduction in mill maintenance costs of up to 20% is achieved.


Likewise, investment in civil works and the plot of land for the implementation of a project is decreased. In Avatar Technology, fresh fruit is arranged in a receiving hopper responsible for dosing the product to a conveyor system that leads it to a threshing and shredding tower, where initially the crack of the rachis is achieved and the detachment of fresh fruits in several fragments by the thresher. Then the fragmented rachis is treated in a double-shaft shredding machine. In this second machine, the entirety of the fruit cluster is mechanically broken to be transported to the dynamic sterilizer. During the threshing and shredding process, steam can be optionally injected into the fruit to heat it to 55ºC thus avoiding acidification, by inactivating lipolytic enzymes.


In this way, free fatty acids (FFA) formation is controlled, which, however, are unlikely to form, since the threshed and shredded material takes no more than 2 minutes to be deposited into the sterilizer for simultaneously performing the fruit sterilization and digestion process. The Dynamic Sterilizer, which is the novelty of this system, consists of a reactor with a central shaft supported by the curved caps of the equipment body and has two helical bands with different diameters and opposite directions, one larger with a right direction for loading and unloading the material, and the other one with a smaller diameter and left direction for digesting the chopped fruit.


The sterilizer is internally coated in stainless steel and internally is isolated from its support units, thus avoiding cross-contamination between lubrication systems and the CPO during processing. The sterilizer is loaded from the top, through a slice valve, and receives the fruit from the bottom of the second conveyor of the system. The loading operation, which lasts from 8 to 10 minutes, is finished once the sterilizer has been filled to 100% of its internal volume and the mentioned valve is hermetically closed, the steam is injected at a higher speed until reaching 40 PSI pressure, starting the dynamic sterilization process. Dynamic Sterilizers are filled, so that internal air spaces are minimal, which makes heat transfer to fragmented bunches faster and more effective without requiring sterilization peaks or condensate evacuation processes.


Once the unified sterilization and digestion process is made inside the dynamic sterilizer, the depressurization process is conducted, after which 100% of the fruit is discharged and driven by a conveyor system to the pressing section. The processed material is discharged into the presses, directly into a receiving hopper, and then it is transported to the press’s feeders, which replace the old digesters, thus dosing the feed to the press and obtaining two phases: the solid phase corresponding to 40% and the liquid phase that reaches 60% of the fresh fruit received in the hoppers.


The solid phase, formed by chopped rachis, total fibers, mesocarp fibers, and nuts of the fruit, is deposited on a separating drum, where the chopped rachis (or fiber cluster) are removed from the process and the mesocarp fibers are discharged and the nuts on the conveyor dryer cake to the air separation column to recover the nuts, which are evacuated through a nut polishing drum. On the other hand, fibers obtained in the air separation column are available to be used in the steam generator boiler.


The liquid phase or sieved press liquor is discharged to the clarification system in place. The CPO obtained from the decanter is processed in a plate centrifuge for final washing, where the unwanted elements such as chlorine (3-MCPD), iodine, and phosphorus are extracted. Then the palm oil is passed through a vacuum dryer to remove the excess humidity, to finally be disposed of in a storage tank.


Avatar Technology effluents obtained, have a higher organic load, and are directly mixed with the 120 to 150 kg of low moisture dry fibers left over from the system, initiating a composting process with a humidity of 60% to 65%, considering that these fibers have a water absorption capacity between 200% and 250% of their weight. This by-product is mechanically processed by grinding and mixing, adding all the ash and nuts shells, in addition to the inoculation of biomass-reducing bacteria, previously prepared for the initiation of the compost, thus allowing the nutrient cycle to be closed, returning to the crop those elements that by nature the oil palm extracted from the soil and during its chemical fertilization, and which remain contained in the waste and are not exported with the palm oil.


In this way, the guideline for the elimination of oxidation ponds and the use of whole biomass can be achieved, obtaining at the same time the maximum possible oil extraction rate (OER), and developing the CIRCULAR ECONOMY concept.


This technology of Colombian origin has been developed and patented by Industrias Acuña Ltda – INAL, an engineering company that is the holder of the patent registrations in 13 countries so far. Avatar Technology was first implemented in 2014 in southern Colombia with its first palm oil mill that started at 8 tonnes/hour and scaled up to 24 tonnes/hour of FFB. Since then, three other mills have been installed in Colombia that started with small capacities, and due to the excellent results obtained with the technology, they have managed to double their processing capacities in less than three years. Likewise, mills with dynamic sterilization have been installed in Guatemala and Costa Rica. Therefore, there are different countries and regions to see first-hand the great benefits of this technology.


Hence, this innovative technology is positively impacting the Palm Oil business, improving its environmental and profitability indicators, meeting the needs of the market, and offering to entrepreneurs and palm growers to increase profitably in the sector.


For more information on Avatar, please contact HSS Industrial Products Sdn Bhd at info@hssip.com

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