Carly Rain Adams
Carly Rain Adams, 2010 Greenspire Dr. Lincoln, NE 68521
The food energy and water nexus is the inseparable connection linking water and energy as key members of food production. The steady increase in population is directly related with the increase in food demand, and therefore the need for water and energy. We are challenged with a unique opportunity to co-manage these resources, as conservation of one is directly linked to the conservation of its counterpart. Therefore, immediately taking on this critical challenge, will lead to tangible impacts on the water and energy crisis our food system is faced with. To reduce the distance between process productivity and resource efficiency we must first determine, within food processing, where water and energy are being consumed. Therefore, this research focused on determining opportunities for water-energy optimization and wastewater reconditioning in a medium sized fluid milk processing facility. To reach the overarching objective, the first task was to develop a baseline of the current consumption of water/energy and wastewater generation. Results from a medium sized fluid milk processing plant indicate that the production of pasteurized fluid milk demands 0.12 kWh and 0.02 Therm of electricity and natural gas, respectively. In addition, every gallon of milk produced demands 0.81 gallons of freshwater. Consistently, the volume of wastewater represents 75% of the volume of freshwater consumed. On average 53.08% of the water used to produce milk is consumed during the cleaning stages, thus this process water streams offer numerous opportunities for water reconditioning and reuse. Consequently, the next step in this ongoing project is to develop a risk assessment model for the reuse of cleaning solutions obtained from the cleaning operations since caustic solution represented 233% of the total water lost during cleaning. The outcomes from this study will allow the dairy industry to optimize their processes while reducing their water/energy footprint. This consumption of resources places a large financial strain on producers. Annually, the medium sized fluid milk processing plant spent more than $47,000 on energy and water utilities alone. Therefore, immediately addressing resource reduction and the economic impact tied with it will lead to tangible impacts on the water and energy crisis that falls upon the food system.