Tuesday, June 23, 2020

AOCS Corporate Member Spotlight - Solex Thermal

Sterling Bollman, the head of Advertising and Sponsorship Sales at AOCS, talked with Stan Pala, the Global Director of Solex Thermal Science, based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In this conversation, AOCS learned about innovations Solex Thermal has developed and what really sets them apart from their competitors. So, please enjoy our next installment in the Corporate Member Spotlight series and learn more about Solex Thermal Science.

Hi Stan! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us and teach us more about Solex Thermal Science! How would you describe the products or services your company provides?

Solex Thermal Science specializes in applying proven thermal science to the heating, cooling and drying of free-flowing bulk solids. Over the past 30 years, we have helped industries across the world change the way they bring their products to market through patented industrial heat exchange technology. Our customized solutions are featured in more than 600 installations and 50-plus countries, with applications including oilseeds, fertilizer, sugar, minerals/sands, chemicals, bio solids, coffee, cocoa and even olive pits. For the AOCS membership, we would like to highlight that we have decades of experience working with products such as soybean, rapeseed, canola, sunflower, linseed and corn germ.
But we are more than what we build. We impact daily life behind the scenes – whether that is helping to produce better-quality fertilizer that results in higher crop yields, reducing emissions during oilseeds processing, creating safer plastic water bottles or producing a better coffee bean. We are committed to finding better, more efficient solutions to challenges both known and new has led to ground-breaking work in what is possible for energy recovery and efficiency. It’s not far-fetched to see how this will contribute to the inevitable transformation of how tomorrow’s plants are powered.

I’m sure you have competitors that do similar work in your field. What would you say differentiates Solex Thermal Science from those competitors? 

Innovation is at the heart of what we do, and innovation is overlaid on our passion for understanding the processes for heating, cooling and drying bulk solids such as oilseeds. This is represented by an elegant and efficient solution for bulk solids thermal exchange. We are showing how conventional tube technology in the oilseeds industry can be limiting to allow for productivity increases, to reduce energy consumption, to reduce emissions and to minimize maintenance costs. Our patented plate technology controls product flow by passing free-flowing bulk solids slowly downward between a series of vertical hollow heat exchanger plates. Steam, hot water or thermal oil flows through the plates to heat bulk solids, while a mass flow discharge feeder creates uniform product velocity and regulates product flow rate.

The result is a solution that’s simple in its design yet sophisticated with its results, producing near-zero emissions, using energy more efficiently than tube technology and producing a superior end product at a cost savings for our customers. In addition, the plate-based design and modular configuration that forms the foundation of the technology allows customers to seamlessly increase production capacity and undergo retrofits with minimal CAPEX. The plates also typically last the lifetime of the exchanger, which can range upward of 30 years.

Wow that sounds incredible! Speaking of innovation, what are some recent innovations or new things that Solex is proudest of? 

One of the things we are proudest of here at Solex is our longevity, particularly within the oilseeds industry. We sold our first oilseeds unit in Canada nearly 20 years ago. Today, there are more than 50 installations worldwide, including ones in North America, Europe, South America and, most recently, Asia-Pacific.

In the last few years, we have advanced our vertical plate conditioning technology so that oilseed processors have the unique ability to recover waste energy from elsewhere in the plant. Most of the waste process heat that is available in oilseed processing plants has generally been useable because the temperature is too low. Yet plate technology has a design and configuration that allows it to use low-temperature heat. By doing so, we can use it to prepare oilseeds for high-efficiency oil extraction with drastically less steam consumption than conventional conditioning technology. In fact, we’ve seen steam consumption in some cases decrease by more than 20 kilograms per tonne of soybean or 50 kilograms per tonne of canola processed. At $20 US per tonne, that’s more than $600,000 US per year in savings for a large processing plant.

Now, we know this year has brought some unknowns amongst many companies. How has the COVID19 situation affected your company?

We have worked hard to minimize the impact of Covid-19 on our business as we recognize the importance of our contribution to keeping the economy working, for our employees, customers and suppliers. We have taken the necessary steps to protect Solex team members, our customers and our community by arranging for our employees to work from home and by suspending all travel. Our fabrication partners and suppliers have taken similarly appropriate measures – like social distancing, alternative shift scheduling, etc. – that has allowed them to continue working while protecting their employees and communities.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge for Solex Thermal Science for the rest of this year?
The biggest challenge in the coming year will be to adapt our ways of working to the post-pandemic world while continuing to provide best-in-class solutions to our customers in the oilseeds processing industry. The needs for feeding an ever-growing global population is driving the demand for more effective and efficient solutions in our industry. As we are passionate about meeting these needs, we are learning to develop the solutions that our customers ask of us from our work-from-home offices and through digital networking tools.

We have also integrated our sales, design, fabrication and after sales support under one organization with the combination of Solex Thermal Science and Mosman Stainless Steel. We are challenging ourselves to bring the full benefits of our combined expertise to the solutions that we develop for our customers. 

Stan thank you so much for giving us your time! This was incredibly informative and I hope everyone has learned a bit more about what you all do at Solex Thermal Science. Before you go, I had one more question. Why is being an AOCS corporate member important to you? 

The AOCS membership provides a forum to enhance our network and connect with professionals from all walks of life – from plant managers to academia and process to production engineers. We especially appreciate the opportunity to contribute to that deep pool of knowledge sharing by having recently participated in the popular Webinar Wednesday series. While we, like many others, were looking forward to the 2020 Annual Meeting and Expo in Montreal this past spring before it was cancelled, we are excited about the virtual sessions available at the end of June. And we can’t wait to see everyone again at the 2021 meeting in Portland, Oregon!

Thanks for reading and again. Thank you to Stan Pala and his colleagues at Solex Thermal Science for taking part in our AOCS Corporate Member Spotlight Series. Make sure to visit their website, follow them on Twitter and connect with them on LinkedIn! Join us next time to see who we feature next! 

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