Saturday, 31 October 2015

Diving in Oman

One of the reasons for our recent trip to Oman was to go scuba diving, as we'd heard good things about the the diving there. We dived at two locations: the Damaniyat Islands and at Qantab.


The former are about 18 km/an hour's boat ride north of Muscat, the capital, and we did two dives each day on two consecutive days there. The area is a protected nature reserve composed of 9 islands and covering about 100 hectares. 

sea star

me, surrounded by teeming fish

crown-of-thorns - deadly for the coral reef

flatfish

honeycomb moray eel

large nudibranch

a zebra shark 

cuttlefish 

large mating cuttlefish 

cuttlefish

anemone 

swimming moray eel

another nudibranch

turtle 

After leaving Muscat we headed to Qantab on the north-east coast, where we did another day's diving, this time with Extra Divers. The diving was pleasant, but the visibility was not as good, and we saw fewer things.

pipe-fish

unidentified?

snake eel

moray eel

What was most surprising about the diving in Oman was the tremendous temperature difference between the air/land temperature and the sea. Air temperatures were low to mid 30s°C, but the water temperature was up to 10° or 12°C cooler!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Night visit to Bois Rouge sugar factory


One wet and windy evening recently I found myself on a night visit to the Bois Rouge sugar factory in Saint André, one of only two sugar factories that still operate on Reunion Island.


While the adjacent rum distillery can be visited all year round, the sugar factory can only be toured during the cane harvest season, which runs from June to December.


Bois Rouge receives sugar cane from the whole of the island's east coast, from Sainte Rose to Saint Denis.


As soon as the sugar cane is delivered, the loads are weighed and sampled by an independent technical centre to assess the sugar content.


Weight and richness in sugar are determining factors in fixing the sugar cane buying price.


The unloaded sugar cane then goes into a shredder, a machine composed of 144 hammers mounted on a shaft. The hammers pulverise the cane onto a huge anvil in order to ensure clear passage for the cane fibre into the other machines.


Once the sugar cane juice has been extracted, it is clarified and decanted by being preheated to 105°C, and lime is added to stabilise its pH at 7.5. During the decantation process a flocculant polymer is added to obtain clear juice.


The leftover filtration residues following decantation are known as filter cakes. These cakes are rich in phosphates and are given back to the cane planters who use them as fertiliser.



The clear juice is preheated to 120°C and enters a 6-effect evaporation station. Output steam from the power station is introduced into the first evaporator body. As it passes through the evaporators the clear juice is concentrated into a syrup known locally as Sirop La Cuite.



Next the syrup is crystallised in a cooking vacuum pan. The operators feed in a certain quantity of syrup and then add a few sugar grains in order to set off the crystallisation process. At the end of this process a crystallised mass is obtained, which is continuously mixed enabling the sugar contained in the original liquid to settle on the crystals and ensure greater crystal growth.



A centrifugal process separates the original liquid from the sugar crystals. In order to obtain high-quality crystals superheated water is used to dissolve the envelope of the original liquid surrounding the crystals. Finally, after the centrifugal process the original liquid undergoes two other crystallisation cycles in order to extract as much sucrose as possible.



At the end of the three successive crystallisation, mixing and centrifugation cycles, a liquid called molasses is obtained, which is low in sucrose content. Molasses are transferred to the distillery for rum and alcohol production.



one of the workers

in the control room


Since 1992 in addition to its basic manufacturing process, the Bois Rouge sugar plant has been developing consumer sugar units for brown and refined white sugar.


sugar sample for laboratory testing 

These high added-value products require specific manufacturing processes all the way through the different production stages.

some different types of sugar
- the finished product !


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