sugar refineries create very pure white sugar from the raw cane sugar produced in sugar mills. Raw sugar varies in color from a deep brown to a light tan, depending on its purity. Although various grades of refined sugar are produced, they differ only in purity and color; usually, refined sugar is sparkling white and colorless in solution. See sugar.
Most refined sugar is produced in stand-alone refineries, so-called destination refineries, located close to major markets. Raw sugar is generally transported in large bulk carrying ships, and conveyed to and from the ships at a high rate, typically 1,000 tons per hour. In some cases, refined sugar is produced at small refineries attached to a raw sugar mill. The costs of production for the latter are lower, particularly because they have the benefit of using steam and electric power produced at the sugar mill, using sugarcane bagasse as fuel. In order to be cost competitive, the very large stand-alone refineries need to make use of economies of scale. The disadvantage of refineries at raw mills is usually their distance from markets, since transporting refined sugar in packs or closed bags or containers that prevent contamination tends to be much more costly than transporting bulk raw sugar. In addition, raw sugar mills do not process sugarcane all year round, but have season lengths of between three and ten months, so that the storage of the refined sugar can be a major issue.