The Gas Technology Institute, Des Plaines, Ill., has successfully demonstrated high efficiency gas-fired drum dryer technology for industrial food processing applications. An alternative to traditional steam-heated systems, the GTI-patented technology provides increases in production, higher temperature capability, increased energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions.

Drying and indirect heating are the most energy-intensive and temperature-critical aspects of food processing. One of the most economical methods is drum drying, a continuous indirect heating process. Drum dryers can be used for a wide spectrum of foods, including dried and dehydrated fruit; vegetable puree; flakes; flour; starch; soup-mix; dry condensed and evaporated dairy products; edible films; dog and cat food; breakfast cereals; and food-preparation ingredients.

Funded by several groups, the project was engineered, installed and demonstrated for the production of toasted onion powder. The groups involved are the California Energy Commission, Sacramento; GTI; drum-dryer manufacturer Groupe Laperriere & Verreault USA Inc., Nashua, N.H.; ribbon burner maker Flynn Burner Corp., New Rochelle, N.Y.; and Omaha, Neb.-based food processor ConAgra.

“This project addresses several major California energy goals, including the reduction of carbon and an increase of energy efficient technologies decreasing the state’s dependence on fossil fuels,” says Karen Douglas, chairwoman of the energy commission. “California’s agriculture industry and its ratepayers will benefit from this advanced research.”

California is the top agricultural state in the nation and the largest center for food processing.

“The food industry is a growing user of natural gas, consuming nearly 650 trillion BTUs per year,” says Bill Liss, the commission’s managing director of end-use solutions. “This technology holds promise to cost-effectively improve efficiency of the drying process, and can serve as a successful model for food production facilities nationwide.”

GTI, in conjunction with Groupe Laperriere & Verreault, will market the GFDD technology to California food processors as well as initiate commercialization of the process nationwide.

GTI is a research, development and training organization that for more than 65 years has addressed the nation’s energy and environmental challenges by developing technology-based solutions for industry, consumers and government.