The experience of:
‘The result of a brainstorming session can be in place and ready to be tested at our own plant just a few weeks or months later. That’s so cool!’
– Peter Hauwert, Senior Process Engineer
As for my credentials, I have an MSc and PhD in Chemistry from the University of Amsterdam (organic chemistry and homogeneous catalysis), followed by eight years working as an R&D engineer in the oil and gas industry. I had additional on the job training to become a chemical process engineer specialising in the treatment of natural gas.
I then chose SCW because of the immense potential of supercritical water gasification, this combined with a pleasant atmosphere and friendly colleagues. You can already notice during the hiring procedure how, during a meeting, the focus moves from very broad and conceptual to very specific and concrete, and they get the input of the engineers of the disciplines concerned right then and there. I then realised that it’s not just about designs on paper, but equipment and systems that actually accomplish this, and I was immediately won over.
Working at SCW is attractive, on the one hand because of the extremely interesting technology for both sustainable energy and waste processing. This has been getting increasingly more support from outside the company over time. On the other hand, the company and the core technology are still young enough to influence the further development of both the technology and the working procedures. We work on challenges to which there is no ready-made answer anywhere in the world, and this requires creativity and perseverance. The fact that we have all the engineering disciplines under one roof is also fantastic, and very educational.
On the other hand, there’s the pleasant atmosphere with smart, driven colleagues, where everyone can be themselves and add their own expertise.
And the icing on the cake is that, with the combination of designs and short lead times, the result of a brainstorming session can be in place and ready to be tested at our own plant just a few weeks or months later. That’s so cool!
We are all driven to make an impact, and so there’s no 9 to 5 mentality where people are just filling the hours: there’s a lot of intrinsic motivation. The desire to work together is part of it; you’re not on an island doing your own thing here. This ensures positive consultation and interesting conversations about risks, costs, lead time, functionality, et cetera. In addition, despite all the lofty talk, there is absolutely also time for fun, cake or a drink, and for celebrating big and small successes together.
The amount of drive in the work culture sometimes makes it difficult not to work too many hours, especially during weeks when a lot of interesting things are happening all at the same time. And despite the drive we all feel to make this a success, it’s being emphasised that making time for relaxation and your family is also important, so that people don’t work themselves into the ground. There’s a lot to do, a lot to sort out, but at the same time some of the work feels like playing with nicer toys than you could ever have at home 😊
A typical working day for me might be, for example, discussing a concept design with one or more of my fellow engineers (process, mechanical, instrumentation and electrical, and automation) and agreeing on the next steps. Next, perform calculations or process simulations and neatly write down the results. Then, depending on the phase of the project, draw up a process flow diagram and make a timeline for a process component; requisition a reactor, heat exchanger, pump, valve, or instrument; or put a process component into service together with the operators or discuss how they should do this and what they should pay attention to.
We have been in the transition from start-up to scale-up for around two to three years already, and with the potential of the technology I can see this continuing for a while. In addition, there are more and more specialist roles that used to be a side task for someone. In addition, we have in-house research, all engineering disciplines, people who carry out or supervise construction, plant operators, and ever more project management and support positions (administration, procurement, finance, business development). That’s why I believe that you can develop laterally as well as in depth.
How this will be arranged exactly has yet to be determined given that the HR department is still developing, but there is more than enough to do for motivated people, now and in the future.
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