Simulating extreme environments
Mike Dowd introduces SINTEC and explains how he’s tackling carbon emissions and industrial decarbonisation.
Industrial process simulation
SINTEC is a globally unique facility that stands for “simulation and integrity testing in extreme conditions”. The facility enables process simulation and asset integrity testing of materials at very high temperatures in reactive gas environments such as hydrogen, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide.
Simulating industrial processes on the lab scale we research breakthrough technologies to deliver net zero manufacturing and materials and industrial decarbonisation.
Industrial decarbonisation experience
I began my career as an aerospace engineer working with Rolls-Royce plc assessing the ability of materials to withstand the harsh operating conditions of civil engines in flight. I was simulating jet engine service environments on the lab scale. At that time the aviation industry was already facing significant pressure to reduce carbon emissions.
There’s an economical as well as an environmental challenge for the aviation industry. Fuel cost to airlines is huge. I remember waiting to board a plane travelling from Phu Quoc airport Vietnam to London Heathrow, a 13-hour flight. I overheard a conversation between the pilot and some passengers. The pilot said he had received the fuel bill for the upcoming flight of 90 thousand dollars.
Simulating extreme environments
At SaMI I focused my knowledge and experience from aviation to the decarbonisation of steel and metals. These industries face similar challenges. Like aviation they are carbon and capital intensive. Energy consumption makes up most of the operating costs in steelmaking.
We’ve used our reducibility test rig in SINTEC to take a virtual look inside the belly of a live blast furnace, simulating the ironmaking part of the steelmaking process. Our research showed we can cut reaction times for the raw materials that feed the blast furnace leading to less carbon emissions.
By conducting experiments that simulate industrial processes in the lab we are assessing alternative technologies and reducing carbon emissions.
We are working with industry on fuel switching opportunities and using less carbon heavy or carbon free fuel sources to reduce carbon emissions. Our research includes introducing hydrogen or biomass not just into steelmaking but other industrial processes.
Our specific expertise in hydrogen means we can provide a dedicated offering to industry. This unique industry offering is possible by collaborating with other academic specialists from Swansea University. This enhances our own capabilities and structural expertise to deliver hydrogen solutions for industry.
We are currently collaborating on hydrogen testing to support Rolls Royce with industrial decarbonisation on the HYEST project.
Wales’ green economy
Due to the nature of our set up we are providing research and innovation solutions to companies that wouldn’t otherwise have access to our level of expertise. We are working with start-ups and SME’s, as well as established and innovative companies such as Rolls Royce and Tata Steel. We are collaborating with several sectors, not just steel, to find practical solutions to the biggest manufacturing challenges.
Collaborating with our industry partners we are delivering real solutions in the transition to net zero, delivering industrial decarbonisation, and helping Wales move towards a green economy.
Contributor Mike Dowd