Industrial Utility Efficiency

Meat Processor Saves Millions of Gallons of Water with Engineered Vacuum Solution

Part of the Solberg Manufacturing mission statement is to “innovate and discover new possibilities,” which is what they accomplished in partnership with Becker Pumps Corp. USA when tackling a unique pump and filtration challenge for a meat processing plant. Working together, the companies engineered a total vacuum solution that allows the plant to save millions of gallons of water per year. 

An engineered vacuum solution helps a meat processor save approximately 225 gallons of water per minute during a meat-mixing process – and save on wastewater treatment costs.


Vacuum Key to Meat-Mixing Process

Vacuum can be used in many ways for the meat processing and packaging industry. From mixing ingredients to evisceration (removing organs, excess fat, bones, etc.), to the washing/preparation of the meats or even in the packaging of the meat itself, vacuum is critical to the industry.

In this case, Becker’s meat processing customer uses large tumblers/meat massagers to add ingredients to specialty meats like the turkey, chicken, and ham products found in the local deli aisle. This application called for vacuum to be pulled on the tumblers/massagers to help infuse the spices into the meat. The customer has three locations across the United States with a total of 15 tumblers, each one using its own vacuum pump.

The company was spending a significant amount of money on water due to its existing installations of water sealed liquid ring vacuum pumps. Liquid ring pumps can consume large quantities of water when creating vacuum. Using this type of pump technology required the customer to pay for clean water coming in and also the wastewater going back out.  In addition to these expenses, the customer needed to ensure the wastewater was “clean enough” to discharge back through the local sewer system adding more cost. One last concern for the customer was that their liquid ring pumps required the incoming water temperature to be maintained at a certain level, or they would risk losing pump performance and fail to meet the vacuum level required for the meat-mixing process to continue trouble-free. 

A  liquid ring vacuum pump is a positive displacement pump that uses a rotating impeller and  a sealing fluid, in this case water, to create vacuum. This technology is well suited for many vacuum applications. However, in today’s world where plant operators are seeking to improve their energy consumption and water conservation practices, alternative vacuum pump technologies are being explored to help achieve environmental and sustainability goals.


Lubricated Vane Pumps: Part 1 of the Solution

The challenge with liquid ring vacuum pumps at the meat processor’s operations is that, while the meat and spice product is being mixed, the vacuum pump can pull  pieces of meat/fat, liquids/juices, spice particulate and other contaminants into the vacuum pump. In this application, these pieces of meat, slugs of liquid, and excess spices are pulled through the pump where they are collected and disposed of before the contaminated water is released to the local sewer system.  

Decision makers at the meat processing company were concerned about the amount of water they were using to operate their liquid ring pumps and proper treatment of the wastewater prior to disposal. Another concern was the need to properly maintain the water temperature to meet the requirements of the process. After conferring with Becker, the company decided to retrofit their process with Becker lubricated vane pump technology, eliminating the customer’s concerns about water consumption, water temperature control, and wastewater disposal because the pumps require no water to operate.

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