Young Living Farms gets steam generator system upgrade

The transition to rapid on-demand steam, resulted in significant production efficiencies

By Mario A. Talavera Sr. August 19, 2021

Young Living Farms, headquartered in Lehi, UT, produces high-quality essential oils. Fueled by a growing demand for top-quality essential oils, it has offices in Australia, Europe, Canada, Japan and Singapore — and farms located around the world (see Figure 1). Young Living sells its products through a global network of member distributors, so maintaining inventory and controlling costs is imperative.

The older firetube boiler Young Living had been using at its Highland Flats Distillery in Naples, ID, was not nearly as efficient as it needed to be for a global leader in essential oils.

This was due to the ratio of having to heat 3,000 gallons of water to 70 psi of steam pressure from a cold start, which took five or more hours. Plus, the firetube boiler required an additional hour to bleed off the steam at shutdowns to leave it in a safe, depressurized, risk-free state.

Boiler replacement time

The time came to replace the boiler, and Brett Packer, executive director at Young Living Farms was eager to put a steam generator from Clayton Industries to the test. “A Canadian colleague, Cory Howden, who managed our Northern Lights Distillery in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, had been talking with me for a while about switching from a firetube boiler to a steam generator from Clayton,” Packer said. “He told me it worked more like on-demand steam and is much safer and more efficient.”

Young Living replaced its single 500 hp firetube boiler at the Highland Flats Distillery with two Clayton 150 hp steam generators. When the new steam solution went online, efficiency increased rapidly, and energy savings followed, because with rapid on-demand steam they can now go from totally cold to full-steam output in roughly five minutes.

“Switching to Clayton steam generators resulted in more than 32% reduction in the cost of fuel and utilities per kilo of oil, which is the unit we use to measure production. We also gained significant production efficiencies. Clayton generators reduced our operators’ hours by 10%,” Packer said.

A two-generator advantage

With both steam generators fitting in the same footprint as the 500 hp firetube boiler, Young Living gained another advantage: It could have one generator running and one generator for backup (see Figure 3). “If there would ever be a problem, having a backup allows us to keep production going while we take time to identify the issue and correct it,” Packer said.

Being able to adjust to harvest changes within minutes supported Young Living’s need for flexible manufacturing. Increased efficiency through rapid on-demand steam operation and low emissions levels were key reasons why the company chose to install Clayton generators. Production flexibility was another critical advantage.

Packer said with Clayton generators, Young Living Farms could adjust steam pressures as needed in just seconds depending on the material demand and stages of production. In contrast, the old boiler had a 90 minute or longer time window to fire up or shut down.

Meeting quality goals

The quality of steam from Clayton boilers helped Young Living Farms increase its yields and meet quality standards.

Young Living is committed to providing pure, powerful products infused with their essential oils’ life-changing benefits and has designed and built the largest, most technologically advanced essential oil distilleries in North America.

“Distilling pure essential oils is a meticulous process,” Packer said. “The quality of the steam from Clayton boilers is 99.5% dry, so it’s ideal for steam extraction and has increased our yields.”

In the steam distillation of essential oils, steam is directed into food-grade, stainless steel extraction chambers containing biomass (aromatic plant or trees). The steam is applied directly to the surface area of different types of biomass. The direct steam causes the biomass’s volatile molecules to get directed to a condenser where non-contact cooling water condenses the steam with volatile molecules into a liquid form called distillate. The distillate gravity feeds into a separator where the less dense molecules float to the top and are collected in a funnel that leads to a tap. The amount of oil yielded varies depending on the biomass used and the species of plant or tree.

“The many positive aspects of the Clayton Industries’ steam generator have improved our ability to keep up with inventory demands,” Packer said. “Ever since the Clayton install at the Highland Flats Distillery, we’ve been able to supply all needed inventory levels of the oils from three conifer species we provide to our distribution center. These oils get blended into hundreds of Young Living finished goods, one of which is a top-10, best-selling product out of all of Young Living’s product lines.”

Safety a priority

Maximizing employee safety and protecting them and the plant from a catastrophic event was another top priority when choosing a replacement steam system.

When it comes to safety, the simple question is this: “Do you want a boiler that has the potential to explode or one that doesn’t?” Packer said one thing that sold him on Clayton generators was that they present a lower risk of an accident than a residential water heater.

Since as far back as 1930, when Clayton Industries began, there has never been an explosion in a Clayton Steam Generator. That’s due to two Clayton design features.

The first is low water content. With a firetube boiler, a massive amount of water is brought to temperature at the same time. It’s contained in the same boiler shell and all of it is pressurized. In the event of a rupture, all of this energy is released simultaneously and can be catastrophic. Clayton’s design keeps a low water volume in its generators, which minimizes explosive potential.

The second safety feature is coil design. Even in the unlikely event of a leak in a Clayton heating coil, it cannot instantaneously release the energy contained within the steam. It would be like a cut in a garden hose. The steam would have to travel through the coils to reach the source of the leak, which would emerge as a slow trickle. It’s not like a firetube boiler where all of the energy would be released at once, potentially resulting in an explosion. Plus, with a Clayton steam generator, the coil is contained inside the generator’s welded steel shell. Any released energy would harmlessly exit through the exhaust stack and into the atmosphere. There would be no harm to personnel or the plant.

Brett Packer has been impressed by the results. “Two more Young Living Farms’ distilleries are in the process of conversions to steam generators,” he said. “I’m working on system proposals to begin Clayton installs at Ecuadorian and European Young Living distilleries.”

Author Bio: Mario A. Talavera Sr. is western regional sales manager at Clayton Industries.