Beet Refining Process

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Harvesting of the sugar beet crop begins each year in September. Growers deliver the beets to one of seven receiving points located in southern Alberta.

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Our beet sugar factory in Taber processes sugar beets grown in southern Alberta. They are first harvested, sent to our plant and sliced into thin, noodle-like strips called cossettes. The cossettes are mixed with juice and pumped to the extraction tower.

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In the extraction tower, the sugar is extracted from the cossettes by diffusion. The sugar-containing juice leaves the bottom of the tower while the exhausted cossettes (now called pulp and containing less than 0.3% sugar) are discharged from the top of the tower and conveyed to pulp presses which mechanically dewater the pulp. The water is returned to the extraction system (since it still contains some sugar) and the pressed pulp is dried in rotary natural gas-fired driers. The dried pulp, now containing less than 10% moisture, is then made into pellets which are sold for animal feed.

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The raw juice from the extraction system must first be purified before the sugar can be crystallized. This is done using lime and carbon dioxide gas. Impurities present in the juice (originating with the sugar beets) are precipitated by the lime and carbon dioxide gas and then removed by filtration.

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After purification, the juice is concentrated to remove water and then boiled in large vacuum pans. In the pans, water continues to be evaporatored until sugar crystals begin to form. The pans are boiled under a vacuum to prevent the sugar from being carmelized or burnt. At the end of the cycle, the vacuum pan contains a mixture of sugar crystals and syrup.

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Centrifugals separate the crystals of sugar from the syrup. The crystals are dried and stored in silos until required for packaging or shipment to customers.

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The sugar is now ready to be packed in various sizes, from large 1 tonne industrial bags or small 2 kg paper bags that you find at the grocery store.

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