The Madera Tribune

Potential problems for sugar factory

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webmaster | 03/30/13

I am an old sugar tramp who terminated his 17-year career with Amstar Corp., Spreckels Sugar Division in 1983, when things got strange. This article (on sugar beets) is of great interest to me.

I didn’t realize that Brawley is the only beet-sugar factory still operating in California. I have noticed that our fuel prices here preclude the operation of a beet-sugar factory on natural gas.

Brawley must be able to wheel gas from another state.

Beet sugar production requires at least 5 therms (500,000 BTU) per 100-pound bag. PG&E is supplying me fuel at about $1 per 1,000 BTU.

These farmers need to look at making a profit, not just at making ethanol. Various agencies will be on them like flies on dead meat. ATF, DOE, EPA region 9, ARB, San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District, and others.

I did air pollution control work from 1971 through 1983, and steam engineering. These are independent agencies (consult an attorney) that do not comply with the Brown Act. They are the major obstacle to what these farmers are trying to do.

I brought up profit because they should look at the remaining beet pulp as animal feed. Solar dried pulp is a valuable commodity. They should not be solubilising solids in the pulp to extract all of the sugar because they can get whatever the price of feed is for the stuff that remains in the pulp. I am sure they will not be making dry sugar and producing molasses.

The only time I have ever been near a rectifying column was in college doing a lab project. However, I am sure that if I wanted to make fuel grade methanol at home, I could.

I wish these farmers good fortune.

Robert Christiansen,


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