Technology

A week in the life of a gas engineering student

An APA Group employee since my first year of study, I couldn’t help but develop an interest in the gas industry. Luckily, in my final years, I was able to choose some specialised oil and gas units, finishing with majors in Mechanical Engineering, Information Management and e-Business.

A typical week in an engineering student’s life involves late nights, Red Bull and many cups of tea. University has been a challenging and demanding experience but constantly rewarding. My friends and I would sometimes joke about the “˜emotional sine curve’ that major assignments would put us through as we experienced the highs and lows – I guess it is good preparation for what we will all face in the industry.

Monday

I rock up to my Process Fundamentals class at the computer lab to continue some work on my first assignment for the semester: Build a simplified model of Woodside’s North Rankin gas processing system and assess the different fluid compositions and properties. Trying to figure out which of the 100 symbols is the one for “˜heat exchanger’, the time ticks by.

Tuesday

Engineering Design 234 – Despite my suggestions to change the name of this unit to “˜Introduction to Australian Standards 101′ being taken in jest, this probably best explains this unit.

Thursday

Structural Integrity 334 – The lecturer tries to convince us that the hours spent discussing polarisation and little diagrams of flowing electrons will be relevant in our careers. Highly doubtful; everyone rolls their eyes as we turn to question 4:
“You are a Corrosion Engineer and your manager has asked you to design a corrosion protection system for their underground natural gas pipeline…What aspects would you consider and detail the steps you would take to implement it.”?
I suddenly have a lot of faith in the relevance of the teaching material.

Friday

Preparation for our Project Engineering tutorial normally involves some research and report writing, or perhaps some modelling and calculating; however, this particular week we are cutting up newspapers to make paper hats and swords. As engineers from the 18th century we are bidding for a project to sail with Christopher Columbus. Budget preparation and scheduling practice aside, I wasn’t expecting to still be playing dress ups in my final year of university!

Working for APA Group

My role as an undergraduate at APA is quite flexible and changes constantly.

Monday

A break between classes gives me time to visit a vendor’s manufacturing facility. Under the guidance of my senior engineer, I spend some time inspecting the filter vessel I’ve been helping to design and procure.

Tuesday

My phone vibrates during a lecture. It’s work, “…the expected flow demand has increased to 17 terra joules per day. Are the existing heat exchanges able to provide sufficient energy to maintain the required gas delivery temperature?”?
It’s time to put my thermodynamics lecture notes to use.

Wednesday

Eye Resilience Test – also known as a P&ID check. I spend a few afternoons cross-checking an equipment list with the drawings, the data sheets, the specifications and standards to see if anything has been missed or mis-typed. It isn’t the most inspiring part of my week, but each completed check teaches me more about the equipment we use; the role each component plays; and, their design.

Thursday

The staff at APA are always willing to help; from lending textbooks, to showing me how a gas turbine and compressor work.
After work one week I pull out my latest university assignment: design a machine that can autonomously move forward, turn 90 degrees and deliver balls into certain boxes. Before I know it, my team has programming equipment, tools and instruments, much appreciated advice and expertise at our disposal and even an offer from APA to sponsor our design.

November

Climbing into a two-man light aircraft where I am to spend the next three days scanning the gas pipeline route as part of APA’s monthly risk surveillance procedure I wonder what I have volunteered for. The work is surprisingly demanding but the views of the Western Australian coastline and landscape make the task well worth it.

February

Steel caps on and vibration transducer in hand, I head off to northwest Western Australia to measure and record vibration levels on a compressor station. A simulated red dust storm, fly-infested, 45°C environment in the coursework would have prepared me better for this.

What now?

The problem with university is that after you’ve handed in your assignments you never see them again; you never get the satisfaction of watching a design being built, or a plan implemented or used to make someone else’s life easier. I look forward to using my degree to make a difference. I’m constantly asked what I’m going to do when I graduate and I guess the most appropriate answer is; I’m already doing it.

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