Granulation: A Comprehensive Guide

What is granulation?

Granulation is an important process applied in various industries; pharmaceutical, Agriculture, Food science, Mining, Construction and the Chemical industry. It involves the use of a binder to form a bulky granule from fine powder/coarse particles by agglomeration technique. The adoption of the granulation process allows different sectors to improve product uniformity and effectiveness. Additionally it positively influences logistic efficiency through reducing the volume per unit weight of the final blend, reduce dust formation (important during storage and transport and for preventing contamination) and ensure easy handling of product. 

This blog series will concentrate on exploring the advantages, current trends, and future prospects of granulation within the agricultural sector. Our goal is to deliver essential information applicable to various uses, including granulation for fertilizers, animal feed, and soil conditioning. A general overview on granulation, techniques, significance of the process and understanding the ideal process for your formulation needs will cover our first blog post. 

Summary of the Granulation Process

The granulation process involves two techniques, dry and wet granulation. Selection between these depends on the ideal product characteristics, material properties, cost (energy consumption & equipment), process scalability and environmental impact to name a few. The most cost efficient process, with minimal requirement for resources is Dry granulation. This involved the use of mechanical compression or compaction to achieve agglomeration of starting powder material.

Additionally, it obviates the need for a liquid binder therefore eliminating additional production steps. Although this process is highly favoured by small scale manufacturers due to its low energy and resource requirement, its applicability is limited. Therefore wet granulation is the preferred method of granulation despite the inclusion of costly and time consuming steps such massing, drying and screening. This is mainly because wet granulation improves material flowability, eliminates the need to use high pressure during compression (some active ingredients are sensitive to high pressure), uniform particle size, and requires shorter processing time. This method is particularly popular in the fertilization industry as it allows producers to create customized manure as required by the farmer.

Use of granulation in fertilizer formulation enables producers to achieve precise nutrient dosage depending on the farmers’ needs, therefore offering all the necessary nutrients in a single compact granule.

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Beyond the green: Biorefinery concept

Billions of years in evolutionary pressure have given us the richness of nature in the plant cell wall. Although it may be easy to overlook a swift of grass, a pinecone or the shavings of sugarcane, the value that lies within the fibre of each biomass has the capability of revolutionizing multiple industries. The sophisticated composition of plants not only fulfills a wide range of biological roles central to plant life but can give us multiple value-added products capable of replacing the need for fossil fuels. 

Efficient utilisation of the plant cell wall (lignin, hemicellulose and cellulose) is truly possible through the adoption of the Biorefinery Concept. Biorefineries consolidate the process of biomass (mostly plant materials)  conversion and production of multiple value-added products from a single resource. This concept is synonymous with petrol refineries, in that it takes advantage of the compositional versatility of the feedstock and their intermediates, therefore maximizing the value derived.

The adoption of Biorefineries for the production of products currently dependent on the use of fossil fuels allows us to replace fossil fuel resources with more renewable alternatives. Importantly, Biorefineries are mostly energy-efficient, eliminate energy waste and therefore contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. By using the Biorefinery Concept, we are able to use waste biomass for the integrated production of food, feed, materials, chemicals and fuels. This presents an opportunity for expanded market reach through a single facility, the opportunity to overcome the deficit of the product development and manufacturing industry particularly in Africa and establish self-reliance regarding the production of products dependent on fossil fuels. 

The adoption of the Biorefinery Concept has huge potential to change the status quo of developing countries, as it avails the opportunity to use local resources for the production of multiple products such as biofuels, energy, platform chemicals and food additives amongst others. It also makes possible the involvement of developing countries in the green initiative without drastically impacting their economies. That’s precisely why LignOrganic is committed to achieving the vision of the biorefinery concept in Africa.

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