The pandemic has posed many challenges for the oils and fats industry, forcing companies to adapt and find solutions to overcome them or risk being left behind. During this difficult period, JJ-Lurgi leveraged on its experience, strong foundation, and readiness to adapt, which allowed the company to not only carry on with its work but even commission various projects despite the many challenges and restrictions.
In an exclusive interview with Asia Palm Oil Magazine, JJ-Lurgi CEO Jakob Helms highlighted how a strong organisational infrastructure and capabilities supported by continuous research and development, enabled the company to deliver consistent and high quality solutions to customers.
With more than 20 years of experience, could you share with us JJ-Lurgi’s history and background?
JJ-Lurgi is a joint venture between diversified industrial conglomerate, Jebsen & Jessen Group and Air Liquide. Established in 1992, JJ-Lurgi is a full-fledged engineering practice and leading innovator in the field of oils & fats, oleochemicals, and biodiesel. With engineering roots in Germany, we contract locally for our markets in Asia and have developed new generations of in-house expertise attuned to our clients’ particular needs. With more than 20 years of experience, we are able to provide insights into the nuances of oleochemical engineering culture, influencing our current work philosophy and future endeavors.
Our business has transformed over the years to become a full-fledged engineering practice today that is among the strongest in the region, successfully delivering more than 300 plants across South East Asia, China and beyond. Strategically located in Malaysia, Indonesia and China, our wide network and deep knowledge of the region, coupled with our state-of-the-art technology and engineering expertise, allow us to respond quickly to our customers’ needs and build a sustainable future for our partnerships.
We continually invest in our organizational infrastructure and competence which enables us to fulfill our commitment to our customers. Research and development are consistent elements of our work, helping us to continuously offer new concepts and enhanced solutions to our customers.
How does JJ-Lurgi compete with other similar market players to ensure the technologies and processes are up-to-date and relevant in the market?
At JJ-Lurgi, we provide innovative technologies for industries such as Edible Oil Extraction, Oil Refining, Fats Modification, Oleochemicals and Methylester (Biodiesel) that focus on the processing of renewable raw materials, including oil seeds, edible oil, oleochemicals and biofuels. We also offer expertise in the areas of process development, detailed plant engineering, global sourcing and plant upgrading.
We are able to differentiate ourselves by designing solutions that optimize resource utilization and create efficient processes that factor in the impact of the plant on people and the environment. Consistent research and development has always been a core element of our work, allowing us to continuously offer new concepts and enhanced solutions to our customers while ensuring existing technologies and processes are updated and relevant.
As a testament to our R&D core and capabilities, last year, we debuted our Twin-Track Sliding Cell Extractor that is the first of its kind globally and multi-seed capable. It is capable of capacities above 5000 tonnes per day, maximizes oil extraction, and grants improved energy efficiency; with a unique mild vacuum technology that lowers the hexane content in wet meals and reduces the live steam consumption at the DTDC (desolventising, toasting, drying, and cooling) stage. We have also successfully commissioned the Twin-Track Sliding Cell Extractor in our largest extraction plant project which has helped our partner achieve a 20% and 30% reduction in steam and hexane consumption respectively, as compared to plants of similar scope.
Further improvements have also been made to our glycerine distillation technology by introducing a heat recovery unit for improved steam and cooling water consumptions of the plant. We also managed to lower the vacuum motive steam consumption.
As part of the Jebsen & Jessen Group and a joint venture with Air Liquide, a world leader in the industry, we bring the best of both worlds - world class, high-quality solutions, innovations and technologies that are adapted and localized to the region and leverages distribution expertise through an extensive network and understanding of local markets. Over the years, we have built our reputation and trust among customers based on our projects’ reliability, success, and performance. From supplying and working on the largest plant for edible oil refinery and biodiesel, to oleochemicals and solvent extraction, we provide the best for our clients and their businesses.
2020 was a challenging year for most of the industries in the world due to the outbreak of the COVID-19. Despite the economic state last year, the palm oil industry managed to perform well and was the largest produced vegetable oil in 2020. Does JJ-Lurgi experience any turn of events from this?
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly posed various challenges globally and for the industry and we are glad to have weathered the storm as part of the Jebsen & Jessen Group and continue on our growth journey, emerging stronger from the crisis. Some of the challenges we have overcome include adjusting to social distancing measures and working from home, delays in our site work and travel restrictions. All this is also underscored by a general slowdown in the market and industry as everyone grapples with the pandemic and its everchanging reality.
From adopting technologies and introducing new policies, we have ensured that our employees are able to give their best, any time, anywhere to our customers, which has allowed us to buck the trend and ensure a sustainable future with our customers and partners despite the pandemic. For example, we were able to commission our solvent extraction plant for a China state-owned enterprise in just under a month despite the COVID-19 pandemic, overcoming challenges and restrictions that arose. This also included a successful test run with all contractual agreements and expectations met.
Apart from that, we were also able to complete our commissioning for a Brazilian plant remotely. All these were made possible by using teleconferencing facilities and the use of dial-in Teamviewer (software application for remote control, desktop sharing and file transfer between computers), ensuring that our team based in Kuala Lumpur can provide step-by-step supervision and guidance to the local engineers in the field as they perform the commissioning work or even take control of the system remotely if required.
The Malaysian government had decided to raise the cess levied on crude palm oil (CPO) and crude palm kernel oil (CPKO), what do you think are the effects that would be felt in the refining industry?
It will improve mechanization and automation in our industry. With the additional cess of RM2, more investments will be poured, especially in the downstream sector, into upgrading our refinery technologies and equipment to maximize operational efficiency and productivity. The increase in automation will also address the manpower shortage situation in our industry. At JJLurgi, our capabilities and outstanding workforce means that we are well poised for this future.
Is JJ-Lurgi working on any new solutions or future development that can assist in the oil and fats industry?
Hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) is an identical fuel to diesel or kerosene, but made from low quality used cooking oils, waste oils and animal fats. We offer competitive pretreatment solutions for oil refiners moving into renewable fuel, which fulfil the stringent purity requirements of the HVO catalyst suppliers. Apart from the conventional pretreatment process, we also offer our patented Oil Splitting (Hydrolysis) solution to further boost the quality and yield of pretreated oils.
The Hydrolysis solution Remote commissioning via Teamviewer Palm oil refinery in South Kalimantan, Indonesia further adds value to our customers by producing valuable byproduct, premium glycerine, which brings additional value creation in terms of producing refined glycerine or green chemicals from any existing HVO plant.
There are also concerns and growing attention on the formation of contaminants in food oil such as 3-monochloropropane diol (3-MCPD) and glycidyl esters (GE) during oil refining. We have proven solutions to mitigate or remove these contaminants. Further market developments have seen the rise in demand of cocoa butter equivalents (CBE), a product which is fully compatible with cocoa butter and shares the similar chemical and physical characteristics, making them an ideal replacement to cocoa butter. We provide solutions in the market, offering technology that maximizes yield of exotic oils like shea butter for blending into CBEs.
Together with our principal Air Liquide, we are introducing a number of new technologies to the market, such as soap carbonate technology (acid-free soapstock splitting), supercritical biodiesel production (catalyst-free process), bio propylene glycol production (a BASF licensed technology) as well as sorbitol production (hydrogenation of glucose). We are frequently looking to collaborate with our customers, suppliers and local leading universities for research and development purposes, including laboratory and pilot plant testing. We also support our local universities by offering internship programmes to groom the future engineering talents of our country.
Lastly, do share your advice with the players in the palm oil industry.
I would like to highlight the importance of cooperation between all palm oil players in the industry and relevant government bodies on conservation efforts to combat misconceptions in anti-palm oil campaigns. We can lend our support and voices by advocating for palm oil sustainability and addressing the misconceptions of palm oil.
Equally important, everyone in the industry has a part to play in increasing sustainability efforts throughout our process chain and ensuring only the use of ethical methods to obtain palm oil. This includes keeping clean records, preventing the burning of forests, and ensuring fair trade and labour practices within own organization and also holding up partners to the same standards.
~ Article first published in Asia Palm Oil.