KHARTOUM, July 25 (SUDANOW) — Sugar industry is regarded the lead of numerous industries and it contributes to fighting poverty and to development, especially in the countryside. It also provides numerous opportunities of employment, activates the domestic and national economy and meets the demand for the essential sugar commodity. It produces other industries such as ethanol, fodders, etc., for self-sufficiency and exportation to fetch foreign earnings under the current emergency economic circumstances world-wide, including Sudan.
These and other issues were discussed in utmost transparency by Engineer Hassan Abdul Rahman Satti, the General Manager of the White Nile Sugar Company (WNSC) in an exclusive interview to the Sudan News Agency. He spoke about the dimensions and programmes of the administration of the company and about the efforts that led to the inauguration of the Plant by President Omar al-Bahir on July 11th. He also spoke about concerns, secrets and agreements reached for surmounting the operation system, the lessons taken from US economic sanctions on Sudan and about the extent to which we in Sudan need mechanized operations or automatic operations, and also about the delight of accomplishment and victory.
The interview runs as follows:
Q: To start with, what does the inauguration of the White Nile Sugar Industry mean to you, technologically and technically?
A: To begin with, we thank our brothers of SUDANOW for taking the initiative for this press encounter and we stress the important media role in presenting this [particular] Sudanese people’s achievement of inaugurating the industry by the President of the Republic in the last few days.
Thanks to God, we began all tasks of the experimental operation of the White Nile Sugar Industry on 30 May 2012, exactly at 4:30 pm Wednesday, after overcoming some obstacles which faced the project during the period which was set for starting the experimental operation. The start of the operation means to us that we have managed to complete all the production processes of White Nile Sugar, as the sugar production processes are not simple but are, rather, very complicated and require complementing various components within the project, starting with preparation of the land for cultivation of the cane through the stages of planting, cutting, collecting and transporting it to the plant. Then come all components of the industry, which also require complementing the boilers, for producing steam, with the electricity production processes, as electricity is produced by steam. Then there are the processes of grinding the sugar cane in the station of extracting the juice. This is the most important station in the plant, which relies on efficient juice extraction. Then follows the station of treating the juice and producing the sugar, which is one of the big stations in which a number of processes are carried out, starting with concentration and refining the juice and the various cooking processes in addition to formation of sugar crystals and separating them from the molasses. Then follow the operations of drying and packaging the sugar.
All these tasks must have other complementary tasks, as the production operation contains another group of operations including refining and purifying water, as the sugar industry, by nature, consumes large quantities of water which therefore must be highly purified and water purification is therefore one of the most important operations. Then follow the compressed air operations on which the production operations depend on the compressed air.
Moreover, there are a considerable number of workshops necessary for the production operations, starting with the mechanical workshop and the electricity and electronics workshops in addition to a group of important warehouses that help in the production operations such as the chemicals, lime and various packaging items storehouses.
Considering what has been mentioned, the inauguration of the sugar plant means that all different operation have been completed for the experimental production to begin on 30 May 2012.
Q: What does the inauguration of the White Nile Sudan Plant mean to you and the personnel of the Company?
A: It is a very important day to all workers of the White Nile Sudan Company, Kenana Engineering and Technical Services and Kenana Sugar Company because it represents the harvest and tremendous efforts made during the past year, particularly taking into consideration the many obstacles and challenges that had to be surmounted.
Q: What was the main obstacle that faced the project? What was the nature of the operations that became a topic of intensive argument and heated discussion that was widely covered by the internal and international media?
A: The main obstacle that hindered the inauguration on the previous schedule, April 2012, was failure to operate the grinding station, which is one of the most important components. This was due to the absence of a part of the programme that concerned the changeable velocities which in the past was operated in a traditional [manual] way, and a new technology was introduced in the factory for upgrading efficiency so that the operation of the engine is programmed [automatically]. This gave importance to the system which posed one of the main obstacles because it was linked to operation of one of the important engines in the sugar cane grinding station, which consists of 6 engines that were affected by the absence of the programmes.
Q: How many engines are there in the industry and have they all been activated ?
A: The engines in the industry total 940 and all have been activated, except the six engines affected by the absence of the programmes.
Q: How did the absence occur?
A: It was due to failure of the importing company to fulfill its commitment with the main contractor of the grinding station on grounds that the importing company was lately bought by an American company and therefore they could not meet their commitment.
Q: What was the main company which was originally contracted with and what was its nationality?
A: At the beginning, the contract was made with an Indian company called Oaten, but the sub-contractor was an international company named Canfuletem, which was bought by an American company, which consequently halted dealing with any equipment coming from Sudan, as part of the US economic sanctions on Sudan.
Q: What did you do after you found out that the US intervened to prevent you from obtaining the programmes for operating the grinding mills of the White Nile Sugar factory?
A: After realizing that we could not operate the factory on the set time, April 2012, we embarked on intensive contacts with a group of institutions inside Sudan. These included Kenana Sugar Company, the Nile Center for Programmes, which is an important center specialized in this field, electricity and petroleum companies, the military industry, the Yarmouk Complex and Giad Complex, which has similar equipment, for finding similar programmes that could be used in our factory.
Due to the tight deadline for opening the factory, we apologized for postponement of the inauguration for technical reasons because it would take time to obtain the programmes or to complete modernization of new similar programmes for operating the engines of the grinding mills.
Then we began contacts with international companies of friendly countries and the matter was followed up by the concerned authorities thoroughly by the hour until the process of modernization of new programmes was completed. It took only six weeks to build the new programmes we needed for operating the six engines.
Q: Have you sought to develop these programmes you have obtained?
A: It was an opportunity for transferring a highly distinguished knowledge, as these programmes are very advanced with a high technology, and so are the engines. The experience was useful to the WNSC engineers and their peers in the above-mentioned institutions contacted to assist in the encoding task for operating the grinding mills. The experience offered them precise knowledge of the operation of those programmes and I think it will be useful in the future.
Q: Will this experience be documented for future use in the Sudan?
A: Yes. The process of compiling this experience is underway to make it a model for various institutions in Sudan for resolving issues related to advanced technologies and automation of different engines for upgrading efficiency of the production operations of sugar or other industries.
Q: You spoke about the lesson taken from the experience regarding the lack of knowledge in programming, a matter that made the US boycott delay inauguration of the factory; can you speak of other lessons?
A: One of the lessons was that we in Sudan felt that we are in need of tremendous efforts for introducing automation, a modern term given to everything that operates automatically without human interference, and the mechanical industry can be called industrial automation. We opine that the Sudanese engineers focus on this field and we on our part in WNSC agreed with the Nile Center for Programming for development of this issue by establishing a specialized automation center so that knowledge on automation would be spread widely in Sudan.
Q: Are the agreed upon automation processes related to all industrial operations or to the sugar industry alone?
A: The agreement provides for establishing a center specialized in automation processes for all industries, not only in the sugar industry. Automation makes work dependent on machines in lieu of man. Machines operate faster and much more accurate than man and saves time by hundreds of times less than the time spent by man. In spite of the presence of machines in the past, the production took a long time and the accuracy was not as required.
Q: What is the expected productivity of the plant?
A: The design capacity is 450,000 tons of sugar a year, in addition to generation of 104 megawatts of electricity and green fodder, which will reach half a million tons when the factory reaches its maximum sugar production capacity. The green harvest is carried out with a modern technology of collecting the cane remains, bundling and delivering them in the form of green fodder for feeding the country’s animal wealth. Fodder is, undoubtedly, an importation produce of the White Nile Sugar factory.
Q: What about the other projects of the factory, especially ethanol?
A; President Bashir opened a number of projects within the sugar cane farm and within the sugar processing plant. There are plans for establishing an ethanol factory and another factory for concentrated fodder in the future.
Q: How far is the work on ethanol progressing?
A: The establishment of an ethanol factory is underway, not yet completed.
Q: Who are the shareholders in the WNSC the capital of which exceeds a billion dollars?
A: There are several shareholders topped by Kenana Sugar Industry, the main shareholder, then comes the Arab Authority for Investment and Development (AAID), the Pensions Fund, the Social Securities Fund, the Bank of Khartoum, the National Bank of Omdurman, the Industrial Development Bank, the Farmers’ Commercial Bank, Shaikan Insurance Company, the Egyptian Sugar Company for Integrated Industries, the Egyptian National Investment Bank, the Government of Sudan and the Government of White Nile State.
Q: What is the relationship between the WNSC and White Nile State? Is there any cooperation between them?
A: The Government of the State is a shareholder. The relationship is based on the fact that we are investors within the State which rents us the land and I believe the State very much appreciates the role that will be played by the factory with regards to development and in activating economic activity of the surrounding area and the State as a whole, in addition to changing the life-style [of the people] and providing and supporting services.
Q: What about the issue of employment?
A: This is an important issue that offers an additional support to the people of the State and employment of workers from the State will be an important gain to them.
Q: What about the farmers’ project?
A: It is part of the agreement that was signed with the State that provided for establishing the farmers’ project in the form of compensations. It was agreed on the establishment of a 42,000-feddan agricultural project for the farmers in the region. It will be annexed to the factory’s sugar cane farm and will be irrigated free of charge. This is one of the gains to the people of the region.
Q: What about your efforts in providing the services and resettlement of the villagers?
A: There were small villages on the land of the project. It was difficult to provide them with the essential services and therefore it was agreed to relocate them out of the project so that the services would be concentrated. For this reason, seven housing complexes were established and provided with the basic services, especially health, education and water services. Moreover, the WNSC implemented several services projects for the villages surrounding the project.
Q; How do you view the White Nile Sugar Industry as of the expected world’s highest productivity?
A: It is not only the productivity but the important thing is the low energy used in the industry due to introduction of the latest technologies. It will be the world’s least energy-consuming industry.
Q: Would you say a last word?
A: The White Nile Sugar project is really a model for all of us as Sudanese because it was executed under tremendous challenges. It demonstrates the role that can be played by Sudanese experts and engineers and the Sudanese administration in constructing a project of this size under the conditions surrounding the Sudan, particularly in view of the international economic crisis, the internal challenges and financing shortages. It is also an example of a balanced economic, social and environmental development, as the project was designed to address all those issues.
It is also a model for the important countryside development projects besides fighting poverty.
The project is, moreover, a source of pride with an accomplishment based on the Kenana experience and Kenana engineers. It manifested the competence of Sudanese in designing and supervising such a gigantic project as the White Nile Sugar project, which opens the way for establishing sugar industries by Sudanese nationals.
E N D