Engineering firm First Ocean completed the commissioning of a small-scale edible-oil refinery on time and within the budget, adding value to the local grape seed industry in Somerset West, in the Western Cape.
Completed in February, the refinery was developed to process between 100 ℓ/d and 500 ℓ/d of grape seed oil, or a maximum of 15 000 ℓ/m, providing a small but high-value contribution to South Africa’s edible-oil products, says First Ocean project engineer Riël Kuhn.
First Ocean was responsible for the engineering, procurement and construction services on the project, which included the specification of equipment, materials and processes for the development of the refinery, taking into account the filtration stages required to remove free fatty acids, peroxides, colour, taste and aroma from raw grape seed oil. Kuhn highlights that, owing to the refinery’s small size, capital investment and energy requirements were kept to a minimum and the facility requires relatively little floor space.
“Safety was a key focus in the design of the plant and in determining operating procedures. All the components of the plant that make contact with the oil during the refining process are made from food-grade stainless steel so that the end product is fit for human consumption and cosmetic use.”
In addition, five staff members who had no previous experience in the industry were trained in standard operating procedures.
In a market dominated by large-scale edible-oil producers, such as Cape Oil & Margarine, Unilever and Wilmar Continental Edible Oil & Fats, Kuhn notes that the Somerset West refinery is producing high-quality niche products that will be sold as cooking oil and cosmetic oil by South African retailers, and exported to other countries.
With a well-established grape industry in the Western Cape producing table grapes and grapes for winemaking, and the provincial government having identified the agroprocessing sector as a key area for development in the province, Kuhn highlights that the new refinery will make a valuable contribution to the economic growth of Somerset West by enhancing the grape seed industry’s capability and providing employment.