750 Million Lumps of Sugar Every Day (Mar, 1950)

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750 Million Lumps of Sugar Every Day

By Andrew R. Boone

THE drawing here and the photographs on the next three pages tell the story behind the lump of sugar you dropped into your coffee this morning. They show how the world’s largest cane-sugar refinery turns brownish, gummy raw sugar into sparkling, crystalline grains and cubes.

This plant, at Crockett, Calif., supplies a tenth of the 7,500,000 tons of sugar Americans eat each year. Its production would provide five lumps a day for every man, woman, and child in the country. The huge refinery is operated by the California and Hawaiian Sugar Refining Corp., Ltd.

Raw sugar, boiled down from the juice squeezed from cane stalks, arrives by ship in bulk and in bags. The refined product leaves for grocers’ shelves as white, brown, confectioner’s and lump sugar. All are basically the same: practically pure sucrose, whose complex chemical structure is indicated by its formula, C12H22O11.

1. This is one of nine steel silos, each having a capacity of 10,000 tons, for storing raw sugar. Light brown and coarse in appearance, the sugar is unloaded from the silo by the clamshell bucket above. Positioned by a traveling overhead crane, the bucket drops the sugar down the large tube in the center of the silo. From here sugar travels to refining machinery.

4. Boiling the syrup under vacuum to evaporate the water is the next step. The huge steam-heated vacuum pan below, 24 feet high and 14 feet across, is used for this operation.

5. Operator pours sugar crystals into the vacuum pan to induce crystallization of the syrup. Forty tons of crystal-syrup mixture, called massecuite, results from one cooking.

2. After molasses coating on raw sugar is ^ softened with a heavy sugar-and-water syrup, mixture is washed and whirled in centrifugal machine above to remove some impurities.

3. Melted sugar mixture, now a clear amber ^ syrup, strains through fine-mesh screening above in final filtering step. Before this, mixture passes through about 100 other filters.

6. To obtain granulated sugar, crystals are separated from syrup, dried in a rotating cylinder, then shot down tubes to machines, below, that sort grains according to size.

7. Lump sugar is made by pouring melted sugar into rectangular forms, cutting them in cubes, and molding with a cylinder. Cubes below move into drying oven as final step.

  1. experiment 626 says: October 23, 20128:22 am

    I wonder if it is still there?

  2. JMyint says: October 23, 201210:03 am

    Yep at 830 Loring Avenue, Crockett, CA

  3. experiment 626 says: October 24, 201211:36 am

    @ JMyint cool thanks! It looks boring on goggle earth but it is fascinating that the place still exists!

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