Site Visit Report Comparing: Gwelup Water Treatment Plant

University’s first year engineering students visited different engineering companies as part of their learning activities. We as group A2 visited Gwelup Water Treatment Plant on the 1st of April 2008 and then later on that same month we visited Western Australia Speciality Alloys on the 24th.

Gwelup Water Treatment Plant processes borehole water through the process of aeration, clarification by the flocculation of iron oxide precipitates (using sodium alginate) and finally filtration through sand. This process is done in an unconfined bore field which is located entirely within an urban area.

Western Australia Speciality Alloys (WASA) is a plant that produces super alloy ingots for forging and ring roll, other closed die forgings and general forging applications. WASA manufactures nickel and cobalt based super alloys for aerospace, power generation, gas and oil.

2.0 Purposes of the Site Visits

The purposes of the site visits were to:

* To learn about ‘real life’ examples of business and engineering management.

* To provide first year engineering students with a general overview of the challenges and expectations employers require from graduates.

* To see and appreciate the layout of factory plants and sites.

3.0 Activities Conducted During the Site Visit

We surveyed Gwelup Water Treatment Plant and WASA in order to determine how their raw materials were sourced, the processes involved in the treatment and processing of the raw materials and the type of equipment that is used at the plants.

3.1 Raw Materials

Gwelup Water Treatment Plant – the raw materials used at this plant was water which was pumped from 30 different boreholes at different intervals depending on the demand and levels of their respective reservoirs. The water is pumped into clarification tanks in which it is allowed to settle so that impurities can settle at the bottom of the tank then due to gravitational forces the water will flow into an aeration tank. Aeration also converts soluble salts of iron and manganese that occur naturally in the water into insoluble precipitates which are subsequently removed. Chlorine is added into the water to purify it. The softened water leaves the top of the tank into carbon filters which remove fine particle that would not have settled. The clean water is now pumped into reservoirs for storage and distribution.

Western Australia Specialty Alloys – the raw materials are iron, cobalt, aluminum, nickel and many other metals depending on the alloy that is to be produced. The metals are fed into a high temperature melting furnace in which the heat is provided by a magnetic field passing through the metals. The metals will then form a molten billet that will be poured into a casting to form the desired shape of the ingot. The ingots will have to undergo further heat treatment processes to ensure they contain the desired properties.

3.2 Occupational Health and Safety Standards

The two sites we visited had different, strict and unique safety standards that had to be met before entry into the premises:

Gwelup Water Treatment Plant – because it is an open environment we were required to wear longs sleeved shirts and pants, appropriate footwear and we also had to wear wide brimmed hats to prevent our skin from the dangerous ultraviolet rays from the sun. We had to be accompanied by an approved member of staff throughout the site visit.

WASA – it was a heavy duty industrial plant so we had to ear protectors, goggles, helmets, and the appropriate footwear. We also had to have a tour guide throughout our visit.

The use of mobile phones and cameras was strictly prohibited on these premises as part of their privacy act.

3.3 Site Layout

Gwelup Water Treatment Plant – this site was an open space and it only needed electricity for pumping water into the clarifiers only. The site way designed and built in a way that the water would flow from stage to stage as a result of the gravitational forces acting on the water resulting in minimal use of electricity. The buildings on the site were used to view the water stages and for administrative purposes.

WASA – had a big workshop, foundry, and warehouse all in one plant and easily accessible with gangways and shelves clearly marked. The layout was made in such a way that transferring of raw materials into furnaces, then casting and finally onto the shelves for storage would be convenient and less time consuming. The building was made with a height enough to absorb the noise from the different processes involved.

3.4 Roles and Responsibilities

Gwelup Water Treatment Plant – a foreman had the responsibilities of overseeing the processes, maintenance and all the staff at the site. This fore person had to be highly trained and gained a enough experience to run this plant since it is a process in which so many lives are dependent upon.

WASA – a production manager had the responsibilities of overseeing the processes, maintenance and all the staff at the site and also report to the directors.

4.0 Conclusion

These site visits we conducted have enabled us to understand some of the topics we have been studying (especially alloy production) and it has also proven the importance of working as a group / team and also the importance of following procedure. Both sites had one person in charge and a small team comprising trades persons, assistants and forklift drivers to do all the work on the site efficiently, thus minimizing costs by reducing labor. Apart from leaning how metal alloys are produced we also got a chance to see the metals being melted through a high magnetic field that reduces the fumes produced in older furnaces. Gwelup Water Treatment Plant had to turn off its aeration because it was causing noise pollution in the residential area.

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