Chemical engineering students from the University of Edinburgh working on their design projects have been given a helping hand by staff at Lafarge’s cement works at Dunbar. Eleven students were charged with designing a process that would capture carbon dioxide in an existing cement plant, and creating a new facility from scratch complete with the same capability. Works manager Nigel Blair, who himself attended the University of Edinburgh, and Matt Petty, optimisation manager, stepped in to help the students get to grips with the complexity of cement-making so that the project could be as realistic as possible.
Matt, who is responsible for reducing fuel and power consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and the use of natural resources at the site, says they were pleased to work with the students throughout the project, providing a tour of the site, attending several meetings and assessing the final presentations. "It was impressive how quickly the students grasped both the basics of cement-making and the challenges facing the industry," says Matt. "We are working hard here at Dunbar – which is Scotland’s only cement works – to lower our environmental impact, for example replacing coal with waste-derived fuels, moving transport from road to rail, reducing waste and increasing efficiency – but carbon capture may well become something we all have to consider in the future. Being involved in this kind of project certainly gives us food for thought."
The university supervisors for the project were Professor Stefano Brandani and Dr Prashant Valluri. Professor Brandani said that it was very helpful for the students to have such specialised support throughout the assignment. He says: "The UK has been challenged to generate 80% fewer carbon emissions by 2050, so looking at the potential for carbon capture in industry is a very topical subject for students that will be tackling these subjects in years to come. Having hands-on experience at the site and involvement from Lafarge during the assessments was invaluable in making this project as realistic as possible."