Magdalena Sugar Mill – Refined Sugar Bulk Storage – Guatemala

Scope of Work

Ingenio Magdalena dome eliminates wait time before sugar can be stored and sold

The eastern coast of Guatemala is awash with sugar cane, and sugar production is one of the five main income-generating products in the country. But as lush as the sugar cane grows, the soil doesn’t make it easy for companies to build their businesses. Volcanoes active and dormant have done their worst to the soil, leaving the ground difficult to work and with low capacity for supporting large structures.

Ingenio Magdalena, producer of 20 percent of Guatemala’s sugar, trusted Dome Technology to find a solution for geotechnical concerns. Construction started with soil stabilization to avoid issues with liquefaction and settling. Afterwards, the dome was built on a Geopier foundation, a crushed, compacted aggregate pile that’s cheaper than cast-in-place piles and solves the foundation problems—new to the area and new to domes.

Inside the customization didn’t end, and of utmost importance were constant air conditions. “Temperature and humidity must be ideal for sugar storage. The weather that prevails in this zone is hot, which does not favor storage conditions,” said Cesar Augusto Vasquez Estrada of Ingenio Magdalena.

To keep temperatures stable, temperature-control and humidity-control systems regulate airflow. With the company’s former model, sugar would come in too hot; now as it enters the structure, temperature controls sufficiently lower the degrees. Air is also rammed through the sugar pile to keep temps consistent. Loading conveyors are air injected to pressurize the system, preventing fluctuations as sugar enters and vacates the structure.

“The dome allows us to have ideal conditions for storage—in other words, temperature and humidity can be controlled from its production stage, eliminating the maturation stage,” which typically lasts four to five days, Vasquez said.

Maintaining constancy in conditions is a must since sugar requires consistent, prime conditions while waiting for the customer. “Sugar storage is mandated by the customer since he has some dispatchment dates he needs to comply with,” Vasquez said. “It is important to store sugar until the indicated date. Because of the type of sugar produced, it is necessary that it remain in adequate conditions.”

Of importance too was cleanliness. To guarantee purity, sugar moves via an air slide so “it isn’t even touching the conveyor,” Dome Technology operations manager Eudaldo Chavez Zazueta said. The interior is coated with food-grade paint, and all equipment is stainless steel.

The dome is the largest long-term sugar storage facility currently in South America, a facility that can store 75,000 metric tons. But the biggest advantage might be how fast the dome can process that much sugar. Rather than the five-day wait with the previous system, “if they need to get the sugar out, they could process as much as 75,000 tons in 24 hours,” Chavez said.

Construction and operation weren’t always sweet. The dome was designed for 80-percent live reclaim, but that left the remaining percentage to be moved by a reclaim screw. The screw selected for the project and provided by one of Dome Technology’s subcontractors lacked the torque necessary to move the remaining sugar, so the design and system were modified until Ingenio Magdalena approved. “At Dome Technology, we stand with people who back their products,” said Chavez of the relationship with subcontractors and customers.

The dome has been a bonus to the Guatemalan economy; besides taxes paid to the government and increased employment opportunities, growth associated with the company’s facility “allows local development through education, health, and social programs,” Vasquez said.

With so much storage available, the company stored its product until sugar prices were ideal. Ingenio Magdalena was then able to recoup most of its investment in the project and make a profit too. “The combination of temperature control and humidity control is what made this dome so special,” Chavez said. “There’s no other storage facility that offers that.”