How Beet Sugar is Made - the Basic Story
White beet sugar is made from the beets in a single process, rather than the two steps involved with cane sugar.
The beets are harvested in the autumn and early winter by digging them out of the ground. They are usually transported to the factory by large trucks because the transport distances involved are greater than in the cane industry. This is a direct result of sugar beet being a rotational crop which requires nearly 4 times the land area of the equivalent cane crop which is grown in mono-culture. Because the beets have come from the ground they are much dirtier than sugar cane and have to be thoroughly washed and separated from any remaining beet leaves, stones and other trash material before processing.
The final sugar is white and ready for use, whether in the kitchen or by an industrial user such as a soft drink manufacturer. As for raw sugar production, because one cannot get all the sugar out of the juice, there is a sweet by-product made: beet molasses. This is usually turned into a cattle food or is sent to a fermentation plant such as a distillery where alcohol is made. It does not have the same quality smell and taste as cane molasses so cannot be used for rum production.
One of the big differences between a beet sugar factory and its cane sugar counterpart is with respect to energy. Both factories need steam and electricity to run and both have co-generation stations where high pressure steam is used to drive turbines which produce the electrical power and create the low pressure steam needed by the process. However the beet factory does not have a suitable by-product to use as fuel for the boilers, it has to burn a fossil fuel such as coal, oil or gas. This is partly because the pulp will not burn properly and partly because the animal feed business has been built from the availability of the pulp.