STRATEGIC factory maintenance currently underway at Chemelil Sugar Company will result in an increased production of over 3,500 tonnes of sugar per month.
Upon completion of the factory maintenance with resumption of operations expected during the month of July 2022, this staff writer established the Company will cumulatively produce over 40,000 tonnes of sugar yearly from milling above 2,400 tonnes of cane daily at a Tonnes Cane Tonnes Sugar (TC/TS) ratio of 12.5.
“The Company’s strategic maintenance programme is targeted at the following factory key process areas; pre-mills, mills and boilers to enhance sugar recovery. Otherwise, comprehensive plant maintenance requires over Kshs. 500 million” says acting Head of Factory Joseph Kiilu.
Kiilu says the factory rehabilitation programme began in earnest on April 19, after a thorough plant boiling off exercise that lasted a couple of days.
The acting Head of factory says it is conventionally recommended that before embarking on factory maintenance, to start by boiling off to clear sugar material that was under process in the plant.
“You can’t just drain the sugar in process because you are stopping for factory maintenance. Commencement of the plant rehabilitation exercise had to be done procedurally, through good boiling off, conscious against polluting the environment,” says Kiilu during the interview with this staff writer in his office, before a joint assessment walk through the plant.
Kiilu hastens to explain that Company Management under leadership of acting Managing Director Gabriel Nyangweso, decided to undertake strategic maintenance of the key factory areas, since they were main sources of enormous factory down-time and loss of sugar recovery.
He says over the last two years, incessant breakdowns were experienced in these critical factory areas; pre-mills, mills and boilers.
“That is why Company Management has decided to invest almost 70 per cent of the Kshs. 220 million disbursed by the Government -through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Co-operative-in refurbishing these key factory areas,” says Kiilu.
Kiilu says good rehabilitation of the key factory areas will significantly improve sugar recovery and ultimate translate into good business and revenue earnings for the Company.
To illustrate the gravity and extent of down-time and loss of sugar recovery, the factory experienced before the plant maintenance, Kiilu says in a key area like pre-mills, cane transporters experienced huge losses in terms of reduced haulage trips and turn-around time adding that “ while we were unable to utilize the desired installed factory capacity.”
“Our cane transporters were losing a lot of business hours. Due to the challenges we had with poor gantry cranes off-loading of cane at the caneyard, a tractor driver ended up doing only one haulage trip in a day, instead of a desirable 2 to 3 trips in a day,” says Kiilu.
Rehabilitation activities in the targeted areas are moving in earnest, with 70 per cent of overseas spares such as plates, bearings and refractory material for refurbishment of the boilers already delivered, though Kiilu decries delay in the shipment of other critical parts.
At the pre-mills, Company factory fitters, welders, helpers, moulders, electricians, technicians and engineers are engaged in wiring, repair, servicing, refurbishing and re-assembling of gantry cranes, motors, feed-tables and the entire caneyard structure to ensure improved efficiency of this key plant area-to achieve good turn-around, by cane transporters.
“The challenges we were experiencing with the gantry cranes also affected the Factory Time Efficiency (FTE) and negatively impacted utilization of the factory capacity, he says.
The factory refurbishment works on cranes within the pre-mills area is equally intended to achieve better cane preparation index, which before maintenance averaged 80 per cent with Kiilu adding that “we need to have the cane preparation index above 84 per cent.”
Kiilu hastens to add that pre-mill works also entail electrical maintenance of the Fibrizor motor to enhanced cane preparation index.
Kiilu says mills maintenance work will restore their extraction performance to above 89 percent with bagasse pol of below 3 per cent and bagasse moisture of below 50 per cent.
He says the factory’s four boilers are also being re-tubed, coupled with the construction of new brick walls.
The performance of the four boilers which supply steam for powering critical process areas in the factory had dropped and were supplying steam of below 60 tonnes per hour instead of the recommended design level of 80 tonnes per hour-with each boiler designed to generate steam of 20 tonnes per hour.
“ Stable and adequate boiler steam generation is important in powering mill turbines, the factory power turbine and supply of enough steam to process house for good sugar production. On-going refurbishment of the four boilers is intended to generate about 70 tonnes steam per hour” Kiilu explains.
Kiilu points out that the on-going key rehabilitation works at the mills, Fibrizor motor, boilers including refurbishment of the Batch Centrifugal machine in process house and the branded sugar packaging machine, have been contracted.
At the conclusion of the strategic factory maintenance, the plant will be able to produce 3,500 tonnes of sugar monthly and above 40,000 tonnes annually at a Tonnes Cane Tonnes Sugar (TCTS) ratio of 12.5, with an ability to mill more than 2,400 tonnes of cane per day.
The expected daily milling of 2,400 tonnes of cane, Kiilu says will see factory performance inch closer to its installed capacity utilization of 3000 Tonnes of Cane per Day (TCD), compared with the pre-maintenance figure of 56 per cent at a TCD of about 1,500 and FTE of below 50 per cent.
“This will be a dramatic and significant improvement in factory performance enhancing Company business and revenue generation remarkably. Compared with the disconcerting pre-maintenance period when factory milled an average of 1,200 tonnes of cane, outputting about 2,000 tonnes sugar per month and milling about 30,000 tonnes cane monthly, at a dismal TCTS ratio of 16.6,” Kiilu says exuding confidence.
“We are new customers of this company and have been very favorably impressed with the quality of the work performed by your staff.” — ROBERT F.