21 May Raising a glass to sorting an earthy problem
A local winery is raising a glass to EQM for designing a new way to clear away a natural product that’s used in the filtering process of wine.
It’s common practice to use Diatomaceous Earth as part of the filtration process to remove fine sediments and contaminants from water or wine.
The filtration process uses a liquid ring vacuum pump that pulls wine through a rotating drum coated in a diatomaceous earth filtering material removing fine sediments. These filters are known in the wine industry as Rotary Vacuum Filters (RVF).
Diatomaceous Earth is the fossilised remains of ancient algal shells called Diatoms or Phytoplankton.
These sedimentary deposits are mined, milled, dried and bagged creating Diatomaceous Earth or more commonly known as DE. DE is widely used internationally for a host of industrial, agricultural and horticultural applications.
As the filtering takes place the DE is used up and must be peeled off the drum creating a muddy waste product. This winery had three bins placed next to the two RVF’s so the waste product would fall into them. As this process was inside the winery, it was causing problems – especially in taking up much needed floor space used as access.
The waste bins were near the pipes and hoses feeding and taking away the wine between holding tanks and the RVF and it was important that the area be kept as clear as possible,” says Anthony from EQM.
“We looked at all options and because the RV Filters were on the side of the factory, it made sense to put the collection bins outside. To get the earthy product to the bin we needed to develop a conveyor system.”
The final design used two standard M-track stainless steel conveyors, which transferred the waste earth onto one elevating conveyor between the filters which took the Diatomaceous earth to one bin outside.
The new system was installed during February in time for the busy grape harvesting season, which started at the end of the month.
Anthony says one of the issues with conveying sticky muddy waste is that you need to scrape it off the belts.
This was addressed by installing an innovative UHMWPE self- tensioning belt scrapper.
Not getting rid of the entire product and it staying on the belts can cause tracking problems but with the right belting combined with a belt scraper this system is now working at optimum performance.
It’s been a success. We’ve created a lot of space inside, taken away any risk of damage to hoses and pipes connected to the filters. We’ve also eliminated almost all of the manual work in having to move the bins from inside to outside.
As an interesting aside Anthony was surprised to discover the difference in colour of the Diatomaceous Earth depending on the variety of grape being filtered through the system.
“Grapes for chardonnay change the colour of the white earth to a muddy orange and Pinots Gris to a bright yellow,” Anthony says.