SKIL's role in the Xiamen Project

xiamen refinery


Project Rationale

A major international trader had commenced a project in Xiamen, a major port city in China's Fujian province, to build a 500 tons per day RSO sugar refinery. At a late stage in construction the client identified that an experienced onsite project manager was needed to bring the project to completion and then manage the commissioning and initial production run of the new refinery.

Local expertise was limited and the client needed assistance with evaluating the staff already on site together with hiring replacement staff for those personnel who had proved to be not effective.


Project Concept

The entire design had been undertaken in China and the contractors were from China although some key sugar processing equipment had been purchased from Europe.

The basic technology used in the refinery was :

  • Affination and melting
  • Carbonatation with dual stage filtration
  • IER with brine recovery
  • Double effect plate evaporators
  • Batch crystallisation
  • Modern centrifugals
  • Sugar drying and cooling
  • Sugar packing equipment


The refinery was to produce 500 tons per day of white sugar for the Chinese premium low color and specific granulation requirement market from raw sugars of varying quality. Process and energy efficiency targets were in line with first class international standards.


Project Implementation

By 2013 the project was in the final construction phase but the Owner was concerned for the project. After an initial evaluation of the project by a visiting SKIL director it was agreed that a senior manager would be seconded full time to provide short-term assistance during the final construction phase of the project. The objectives were to both bring the factory to a stage ready for commissioning and to oversee the initial production to a point where acceptable efficiencies were being obtained.

It soon became apparent that a much longer and more in-depth assignment was required and accordingly, the terms of engagement were modified to provide for continuous longer-term support.

Initially there were significant problems, mainly related to an almost complete absence of sugar factory expertise in the personnel who were already on site. Training on the job for the local staff thus became a priority together with the implementation of a quality control system and acceptance of modern refinery standards.

SKIL provided both full time support on the site as well as remote consultation.


Project Completion

Cold commissioning commenced in August 2013 even though construction was still being completed in some areas of the refinery. A short production run in the last quarter of 2013 was then used to identify both mechanical and training requirements. The necessary modifications to the process were then completed before Chinese New Year and all station operations were reviewed and changed as necessary.

The re-start was very successful with production standards reached within weeks and operational costs becoming equal to the globally best known production costs despite making a premium product.

After the initial commissioning took place and production was established the focus became one of getting :

  • Consistent sugar quality
  • Acceptable sugar losses
  • Daily throughput targets
  • Acceptable specific energy consumption


Once the refinery had reached this point it became a matter of maintaining quality and throughput targets while decreasing losses and improving energy efficiency to world standards.

This was achieved consistently by April 2014 so the SKIL on-site senior manager focused on securing a permanent technically competent production manager and on firming up the internal management assignments. He left site at end of May 2014.

xiamen refinery