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School of Chemical Engineering
Engineering North Building
The University of Adelaide
SA 5005

Telephone: +61 8 8313 5446

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Plant Tour


The Plant Tour is available to Level III students each year, it complements Work Experience and introduces them to industry practice. It also provides an overview of the physical equipment used in industry processes and is of real help to students in their final year Plant Design Project.

From a student perspective, the Plant Tour is seen as a great opportunity to experience many of the different fields available as Chemical Engineers, from wine making and alcohol distillation to steel making and mining.

In 2009 a dedicated Pharmaceutical Engineering Plant Tour was organised for the first time. A summary of each of the tours from a student's perspective follows.

Chemical Engineering: Summary by Mark Davis

The 2009 industry trip set off early from Adelaide University on the 20th July 2009. The early start enabled us to arrive at Millicent by midday ready to see the Kimberly Clark paper processing facility. On site we were provided with a short overview of the paper production process. A tour of the operating facility provided us with an up close perspective of many onsite activities. This included the production of paper directly from the pulp coming from the mill to the rolling of the product. Subsequently a tour of the manufacturing facility, which is highly automated, enabled us to view the processes that the paper followed through cutting, printing, embossing and finally packaging to the final product be it toilet paper or tissue. This facility was very interesting as it provided an insight into how a large manufacturing facility operates.

After a night spent in Mount Gambier, a visit to Coonawarra Wynn's was scheduled for Tuesday. As it was out of season there were no process operations in progress. However, it was still possible to gain and insight into the facility. The tour included a look at the large fermentation tanks used for the large harvests, and a discussion of the process involved. The second component of the tour involved a tour of the smaller processing facility onsite. This facility used for Coonawarra's premium vintages. There was a discussion about the difficulties of the smaller processes and the primary operating considerations. This tour provided insight into the differences and difficulties associated with two very different sized facilities within the wine industry.

Wednesday commenced with a tour of the Smiths manufacturing facility. The tour incorporated a look at all the processes, which began when the plant receives the potatoes through the washing area, the preparation area and finally the fryers then the flavour drums. The manufacture of the corn chips and other products such as twisties and burger rings were also seen. The tour of this facility was highly informative as it gained us insight into a large manufacture process that involved many processes that were recognisable from a Chemical Engineering perspective.

The afternoon of Wednesday saw us arrive in Port Pirie, where we toured the Nystar smelter. This visit commenced with a presentation and discussion regarding the operations at the site. Then a bus tour of the site enabled us to view many of the plant operations. As the production are had just been started up and was still relatively cool we were able to see how they passed oxygen through steel rods to increase the temperature at the tap hole and ensure that it remained open.

Thursday saw us undertake a walking tour of the Port Augusta power station. A short presentation and the tour were highly relevant. The benefit of this tour was that we could directly relate the knowledge that had been learnt through Plant and Process Engineering. It was exceptionally insightful for us to see the operational side of the plant after having applied all the theory as part of our degree.

From Port Pirie out trip took us to Whyalla for a tour of the OneSteel's smelter operations. This tour enabled us to view their coking ovens in operation, used to provide coke for the smelting process. The subsequent quenching process was also seen up close.

The Thursday night was spent up near Olympic Dam at Olympic Village. The next day we were treated to some fantastic presentations from metallurgical graduates at Olympic Dam. The presentations were extremely informative and provided us with a fantastic outline of the primary metallurgical operations at Olympic Dam. Subsequently we were divided into smaller groups, each doing a tour of a separate area of the plant. The areas toured included the Smelter, Concentrator, Hydromet and the refinery. Personally I undertook a tour of the refinery. This included the electrorefining area and the electrowinning area. This was a fantastic experience as it enabled us to view up close a process that had been discussed as part of our degree.

The 2009 Industry trip was an exciting week that enabled us to experience up close some of the industries that we can potentially work with in the future. The students on the trip greatly appreciated the support of the department. The support of the staff that coordinated and collaborated to ensure the week was possible is much appreciated by all students that attended. 

Pharmaceutical Engineering: by Amy Hancock

Pharmaceutical Engineering students in their third year from the University of Adelaide had the opportunity to visit 9 different pharmaceutical, healthcare and skincare manufacturing sites around Adelaide and Sydney. This gave students the opportunity to make contacts in their industry and learn more about what being a Pharmaceutical Engineer means.
The first site was BTG (formerly Protherics), located in Rosedale SA. BTG is an international specialty pharmaceuticals company with a diverse product pipeline including treatments for multiple sclerosis, prostate cancer, varicose veins and coeliac disease.
We then had the opportunity to visit Australian manufacturing sites of some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, including Astra Zeneca and Pfizer in Sydney as well as contract manufacturers of complementary healthcare products Lipa Pharmacueticals and Sphere Manufacturing. These companies manufacture herbal medicines, vitamins and nutritional supplements for many leading names in healthcare. Another contract manufacturing company included in the tour was Hospira (formerly Mayne Pharma), located in Salisbury SA.
A unique type of pharmaceutical that the students learnt about was radiopharmaceuticals. Radiopharmaceuticals are used in nuclear medicine in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) produces radiopharmaceuticals in the National Medical Cyclotron. Hospitals and nuclear medicine centres all over Australia obtain their radiopharmaceuticals from ANSTO.
Graduates of Pharmaceutical Engineering are not limited to only working with pharmaceuticals. The same principles apply to manufacturing of skincare products. Located in the heart of Mount Barker is Jurlique, an organic and biodynamic skincare company. Unlike many skincare companies, Jurlique is unique in that it has control over every aspect of their products life; from growing and harvesting the ingredients, to researching and formulating the product, producing the product as well as the sales and marketing.
Another skincare product, sunscreen, was seen being manufactured at the Hamilton Laboratory in Adelaide as well as a wide range of other over-the-counter healthcare products and pharmaceuticals being made here.
Every site that we visited is governed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and must comply with the Good Manufacturing Practice. This is paramount in any pharmaceutical company to ensure safety, efficacy and standard of product. Overall, the plant tour was a very valuable experience and the staff and students would like to thank all those involved.


Image from Plant Tour

Image from Plant Tour

2008 Plant Tour

2009 Plant Tour Group