International Engineering Ambassadors
Insight into the life & course of international students.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

From Plant to Power: By Hemanshi Galaiya


If you are a second year student in the faculty of engineering, at some point or another you will be encountered with the ‘dreaded’ fun day trips to industrial sites. Now, if you study Chemical Engineering like I do, it is inevitably going to be a trip to the almighty Drax Power Plant.
Drax is the largest power plant in the UK and has capacity to power 7% of the national grid. It is a very interesting site as it co-fires coal and biomass. Personally, this is exciting to experience because as we all know global warming is a ‘myth’. As a power plant that is working towards carbon neutrality it has been a personal inspiration.
My day at Drax was one filled with experience, interest and excitement. The massive site contains 6 generating units, 3 flue gas desulphurisation units and the largest chimney in the world at the time of its construction. It is actually also a site where families and groups of people come for outing days; yes! they just pack snacks and have a jolly time learning about how energy is produced.
We had a very rewarding day touring through the site, interacting with various engineers, project leaders and operators at the site. Each aspect of energy generation – from storing fuels to burning them, from using pumps to generators and turbine – was elaborately presented to us. We were even given access to the control room where a team of engineers monitor every aspect of the plant 24/7 and use various controls to alter the generation capacity in order to meet the demands of the national grid.

What I loved even more was that the company has ongoing plans to invest into research for carbon capture and storage technologies. As a chemical engineer energy is one of the most vital of components that every industry needs to consider. Hence, there was no better place to take us to kick start our year into thinking about project management, fuel and energy utilisation and plant designs. From an engineer’s perspective it is very rewarding to first-hand experience how the theory taught in lectures applies to the real world. This approach of augmenting course work with industrial partnerships is one of the best aspects of my education here at Sheffield.

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