ASC FAQ: What are the big piles of dirt outside of the factories?

The large, flat-topped piles outside Amalgamated Sugar factory locations are not dirt at all, but a material called Precipitated Calcium Carbonate, or PCC. PCC is a solid byproduct of the sugar manufacturing process.


Lime rock is transported from quarries to each factory, where it is cooked in kilns.  When heated, the chemical composition of the lime changes from calcium carbonate to calcium oxide.  After the kiln, the lime is pulverized and mixed with water in a process called slaking.  Slaking is combining a powder with a liquid and mixing until the powder is completely dissolved into a solution. In a machine called a slaker, the lime dissolves into the water.  The resulting mixture is called milk of lime.



Unprocessed lime rock


The milk of lime is then added to raw juice.  Raw juice is the liquid that results when the sugarbeet slices, or cossettes, are soaked in hot water, forcing the sugar out of the pulp via diffusion.  Impurities in the raw juice cling to the microscopic particles of lime suspended in the mixture.  The juice mix is then carbonated with carbon dioxide, which causes the lime particles with the impurities attached to fall out of the solution to the bottom.  This fallout is filtered out and is called precipitated calcium carbonate.



Precipitated Calcium Carbonate (PCC)


When dry, precipitated calcium carbonate is very powdery in texture.  The PCC is transported out of the factory into the large piles outside until it can be used for other purposes.  PCC has several commercial uses, including construction and fill material, landfill cover, compost and bedding additive for dairies, and soil cement or road base.  Amalgamated Sugar is actively seeking out new potential uses for PCC.



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