Probat’s natural responsibility

In the coffee industry, Thomas Koziorowski, Probat’s Director of Product Technology and R&D, says there is a particular synergy where sustainability is concerned. Koziorowski says sustainability has long been hotly discussed in coffee, even before climate change was on the political agenda. “Sustainability has always been a topic for our customers, even when this term was not yet commonly used as it is today,” he says. “All involved in coffee tend to be pushed via sustainability concerns. With coffee being a natural product, this alone lends itself to the beans being processed in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible.” As coffee is mostly harvested in countries around the equator, Koziorowski points to the link that it’s these countries that are experiencing the most dramatic climate changes. With increasing evidence that climate change is caused by man-made carbon dioxide emissions, limiting these emissions in the production of roasted coffee makes sense for the sustainability of the industry as a whole. “What we have in coffee is this natural, organic substance. We have to take responsibility to focus on that,” he says. “We see the effects of climate change in areas where coffee is grown, or could be grown in the future. That is why we have to focus on sustainability, for the future of not only present, but future consumers.” To this end, Koziorowski explains that Probat has a long history of looking into the sustainability of its equipment. The company’s view has been a broad one, extending all the way from the longevity and quality of the equipment it sells, product refinement under ecological aspects, as well as social commitments in how Probat operates. The longevity of Probat’s equipment has been a key focal point for the company in its sustainability efforts. In ensuring its equipment can serve companies for decades, this limits the wastage of disposing old equipment that’s only run for a few years. If they were to adopt a narrow-minded business perspective, Koziorowski points out that the company would profit the most if equipment had to be replaced every five years. However, this wouldn’t fit into the company’s sustainability principles. “The potential lifetime of equipment is really important. We have received confirmation, with almost each roaster delivered, that our highly sophisticated designs are a lifetime investment. Equipment over 25 years old is not rare, and the prices for used Probat equipment in the market underline this,” he says. Although modern trends have favoured the use of lighter materials, Probat has balanced these trends with a preference for recyclable materials, mainly steel. The company also “practices what it preaches” in limiting energy consumption in its own manufacturing processes, opting to bend frames rather than weld them. This helps dramatically reduce energy consumption in processing factories. These efforts in reduced energy usage extend into their equipment. Koziorowski says there isn’t a development at Probat that doesn’t keep in mind a desire to minimise energy input during the operation of roasting equipment on the client’s site. One such development is Probat’s coffee preheating device. The system uses the heat released from the roasting process, most often from a catalyzer, that generates heat at 450 to 600 degrees Celsius. While traditionally that heat has just been released out of the factory, Probat’s green coffee preheating device traps that energy to heat green coffee from its average room temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, to 100 degrees, ahead of the roasting process. This helps save 20 per cent of energy consumption, which in turn reduces emissions and decreases fuel usage. On the exhaust treatment side of the equation, Probat has developed its own Proforte exhaust air treatment system to filter emissions while also using a fraction of the energy requirements of other catalyzer systems. The Proforte is a Flameless Regenerative Thermal Oxidation (FRTO) system. It works similar to other thermal catalytic converters, however it doesn’t need an additional burner to operate, hence less energy consumption. Rather, the system stores the thermal energy released during pollutant combustion in a ceramic bed, and uses it for further heating of exhaust air. The temperature of the exhaust prior to cleaning is between 150 to 200 degrees Celsius, and is heated to around 1000 degrees Celsius, the temperature needed to combust pollutants. The air flows into the second half of the bed, where it releases thermal energy. This energy is then stored to fuel cleaning the next intake of exhaust. In addition creating new technology, Probat’s dedication to sustainability has also focused on offering upgrades to older models. For instance, their new Saturn roaster series has been designed with a gap adjustment, to ensure less cold air is sucked into the machine, lowering energy usage. Probat has extended this offering to the Saturn predecessor, the type RZ centrifugal roaster. “We set at Probat, within the scope of further development, great value on the fact that our customers can also update their existing equipment with regard to sustainability,” Koziorowski says. “Thus these customers can improve their old roaster’s efficiency.” 
Looking beyond the sustainability of singular pieces of equipment, Probat offers consultations on the processes and optimisation of their client’s plant as a whole. Koziorowski explains this involves two major phases. The first is taking from Probat’s expertise in roasting equipment, and looking at all the plant’s roasting operations. From the burner to the motors, Probat experts analyse the energy demands and emissions output of equipment, to see what adjustments can be made to optimise operations. The second phase is looking at the factory’s full process, from how green beans come into the factory to where roasted coffee goes out. From the use of bucket elevators to frequency converters, Probat staff can analyse how processes can be adjusted to limit ecological footprints. This further lends itself to Probat’s focus on the long lifetime of its equipment. “Sustainability does involve the maintenance and inspection of plants and roasters, and this is why we offer that as a service to our customers,” he says. “Only an adequately maintained plant can be safely operated over years and decades.” As for the future of where Probat’s sustainable developments will head, as the man driving these research and development efforts, Koziorowski says the company is constantly working on innovative ways to improve the quality of their equipment. For instance, very recent innovations are the new tangential roaster Jupiter Hybrid or the newly designed roll mill which also fulfil the requirements of the latest coffee product developments. With increasing research about the potential energy use of the processes of coffee, only the future will tell where the rest of this technology will lead. GCR

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