ABB supports Imperial carbon capture teaching facility 11 May 2012

ABB has invested close to £1 million and signed a 10-year deal with Imperial College London to support a new carbon capture pilot plant teaching facility.

The instrumentation and controls giant is also sponsoring the university's chemical engineering undergraduates – partly to help shape the next generation of industrial engineers and partly to raising awareness among chemical engineering graduates of a career in control and instrumentation engineering.

Using a combination of ABB's instrumentation, drives, motors and process automation equipment, Imperial's pilot plant control room – the only facility of its kind in the world – will provide students with hands-on experience.

Martin Grady, ABB UK's general manager for oil, gas and petrochemicals, explains that the agreement gives the university access to his company's most advanced control and instrumentation technology, as well as life cycle services and support.

In return, ABB has access to the carbon capture pilot plant and will use the facility for customer demonstrations and training, inter-divisional training and hands on experience for its own apprentices – as well as product testing and software evaluation.

"The pilot plant is a global showcase for the latest and best process control and instrumentation technology in use at one of the world's leading engineering institutions," says Grady.

"We will be able to trial new technology in a low risk, well-managed environment to gather beta site test data," he continues.

"Quite simply, there are very few industrial companies that have utilised all the leading-edge technology that Imperial College is featuring within this pilot plant," he adds.

To further support its involvement with Imperial, ABB is providing four summer placements of eight to 10 weeks per annum in its UK operations.

And Grady reveals that, in addition, a further summer placement in Brisbane, Australia will be awarded to a student on the university's exchange programme. Also, one final year student will be selected from previous summer students to have their final year tuition fees paid by ABB.

Grady says that ABB sees the investment is as a shop window for presenting the opportunities available throughout the ABB organisation, particularly at one of its main execution centres for oil, gas and petrochemical automation in St Neots, Cambridgeshire and its measurement products activities in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire and Workington, Cumbria.

"By investing in the pilot plant and the awards, we are effectively investing in our own future, by making sure that ABB will have ready access to a stream of bright young engineers," asserts Grady.

"One of our biggest problems is finding enough suitably qualified engineers to fill the ever growing range of opportunities we can offer. Obviously if engineering in the UK flourishes, then we flourish too."

In recognition of ABB's support for the new carbon capture pilot plant, Imperial has named the hi-tech centre-piece of the installation the ABB Control Room.

In brief detail, the ABB Control Room houses the extended operator workplace (EOW) and the distributed control system, System 800xA, from which operators can control and supervise the plant.

Grady believes that, with many international students also studying at Imperial, London, the facility will help to position the UK as a global centre of excellence and expertise for engineering education, as well as carbon capture plant technology.

"The pilot plant contributes to making Imperial the leading international centre for practical, hands-on chemical engineering education and training," comments Dr Daryl Williams, director of the pilot plant project at Imperial.

"We were looking for a global control and instrumentation partner to work with us on the carbon capture pilot plant,£ he continues.

"The opportunity for both parties was immense. It provided a once in a lifetime opportunity to influence the training and education of thousands of young chemical engineers over the next 20 years at one of the world's premier chemical engineering departments."

Brian Tinham

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