The images of devastation from earthquakes in New Zealand is still vivid in the mind's eye.
But life goes on. Cows still produce milk. And their milk still has to be processed. In what is believed to be a first in the world, Fonterra opened a milk drying plant in August that is believed to be earthquake proof.
The plant weighs nearly 20,000 tons, including a 130’ drying tower. It rests on 50 triple friction pendulum bearings, which allows the building to move up to 3’ in any lateral direction. It can process 15 tons per hour, making it one of the largest drying plants in the world.
The plant, located in the small town of Pahiatua on New Zealand’s North Island, was designed and built by GEA. The town was last hit by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in 1934, but is ideally located to process milk from neighboring dairy farms.
Although the main building is isolated from earthquake shocks and movement, the ancillary structures are not. Consequently, each supply line for steam, acid, milk, chemicals and electricity must also be able to withstand movement of 3’ in any direction. “We have used a seismic loop on all the supply lines that gives them enough slack while being supported adequately as well,” says Gary Reynolds, GEA’s project manager for the site.
The site also includes a reverse osmosis facility which can process up to 2 million liters of ‘cow water’ per day. This ‘cow water’ is recovered from the milk drying process, and once purified, can be reused in the plant. As a result, the plant is nearly self-sufficient in water.
The entire complex was completed in less than two years. “In global terms, that is quick for an ordinary plant but for a unique, market leading project like this, it’s extraordinary,” says Reynolds.