Concentrating milk using reverse osmosis

  • 08/07/2017
  • Technical Insight

Technology Fast Facts

  • Type of innovation New to local industry
  • Time to commercialise Available now
  • Cost $100K to $1M
  • Complexity Low for users

What the technology does?

It has been shown that milk can be concentrated to 50 per cent of the original volume without adversely affecting its quality. Once concentrated, only half the volume of the milk needs to stored, refrigerated and transported. A further productivity benefit is a much lower energy requirement for drying milk at the processing plant.

How is the technology different?

Normally milk is transported with its full water content, and dewatered thermally at the processing plant using spray dryers. Membrane dewatering (or this osmosis process) is far more energy efficient than thermal drying.

Application & Uses:

The osmosis technology is suitable for on-farm use where a large farm is a substantial distance from the processing plant, for inter-factory transfers of milk and milk products, and for sales of bulk milk products interstate and internationally. Care must be taken to maintain low bacterial levels if this additional process step is undertaken.

Case Study:

The feasibility of removing water from milk on-farm was trialled using a reverse osmosis system manufactured by Tetra Pak Dairy & Beverage. The equipment for the pilot study in Australia was leased from New Zealand and retrofitted to suit the needs of Yanakie Dairy Farm in Gippsland, Victoria. When operational, the system produced 400 litres per hour of concentrated milk, and of fresh water (that was then used for cleaning machinery and other purposes).

Preliminary assessments identified a payback in one to two years based on benefits to the farmer for an on-farm system which cost $100,000. Reduced transport costs to the processing plant were the greatest source of savings, worth about $30 per kilolitre.

What the experts say:

This technology is already commercially available, but could be further optimised to bring down capital costs. In a time of rising energy prices (both gas and electric) and the potential for tight supply, there is a substantial benefit for processors to reduce thermal drying load. Further work is required to determine the detailed commercial return on investment for specific applications.

The technical challenge is to find the right concentrated osmosis draw solution and how to dispose of it or re-concentrate once applied for osmosis. Finding the draw is the current flaw in the process.

Find out more?

Disclaimer: This Innovation Insights was prepared by Food Innovation Australia Ltd (ABN 50 164 124 609) (FIAL). It has been compiled from information and material supplied by third party sources, publicly available information, and expert opinion, which may (in part) be inaccurate or incomplete and which has not been independently verified by FIAL. FIAL makes no representation, warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of the information provided in this Innovation Insights. Use or reliance upon this Innovation Insights is subject to and conditional upon the user not holding FIAL liable in any way for any impact or consequence arising from any of the above factors or the user's reliance on the contents of this Innovation Insights.