My alarm goes off and I roll out of bed to head off to my gym class. I am definitely not a morning person, but I like to hit the gym early to avoid getting stuck in peak hour traffic.
After my class ends, I head home and get ready for work. I make myself breakfast and a coffee for the road. I am lucky that my commute to work is in the opposite direction to city traffic, so I have a fairly relaxing drive listening to music.
I pull into the refinery car park and check I have all the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on, before beginning the walk to my office, past the LPG facility, the operating area and the storage tanks. Being a chemical engineer, I love that I can still work in Brisbane at a refinery. Once I get into the office, I make myself a tea and check any emails that have come in overnight.
I am scribing a plant risk assessment to determine if an inspection interval can be extended for the boiler feedwater lines. Plant risk assessments are needed when conditions change, a protective device is not working properly or maintenance is delayed and we need to evaluate if it is still safe to work as we usually do. Scribing a risk assessment is a great chance to learn from the experience of others about what could go wrong and how best to control or mitigate it. It is also an opportunity to meet people from other teams who I wouldn’t normally interact with.
I have lunch with the other graduates at the Process Safety Lunchtime Learning Session. Being part of the Ampol Graduate Program means I get to work with other engineering graduates across the company and be part of a broader community that supports me through the program. I also love that there are two other great female engineers in my cohort. Once a week over lunch, one of the engineers on-site will present on a past incident in the process engineering industry and walk through the key learnings from the incident. I try to get along to as many of these as possible as it is so valuable to learn from more experienced engineers on-site and to challenge myself on whether I am doing the best I can to put safety first in my work. This is especially important in my current role in the process safety team.
Time to grab some gear and head out into the refinery again. Safety glasses: check!
One of my current projects is to identify potential areas of exposure to substances during routine draining and sampling activities, and erect warning signs to remind workers of the potential risk and the importance of appropriate safeguards. I have been working through previous PHA (Process Hazards Analysis) studies to identify potential locations with an exposure risk. I have also talked to some area specialists and area superintendents, but I am keen to talk to the people who are in the plant everyday doing these routine sampling and draining operations, to get their perspective. I walk over to the control room to chat to the operators on duty. Before we head out on the plant, I bump test my gas monitor to verify it is working properly. We have a conversation about other work going on in the area and any hazards I should be aware of. One of the operators takes me on a tour of the area, where I take photos of existing signage and note areas where I could make an improvement.
One of the things I love about Ampol is our focus on safety. As a major hazards facility, Lytton Refinery is required to update their Safety Case every five years. As part of the Safety Case update, I have been completing an LPG gap assessment. This involves comparing the Australian standard for LPG storage to how we store our LPG to support our demonstration that we are managing the risk ‘so far as reasonably practicable’ (SFARP). This process has required me to extract relevant auditable points from the standard, meet with various people on site who specialise in certain aspects of LPG storage and validate the information on site.
I am already at the permits desk, so I take the opportunity to visit the LPG facility to get some photos of the pipe labelling and vessel nameplates. Visiting the LPG facility on site is also helpful for me to better understand the process and how the nozzles on the vessels are arranged. After I am finished, I visit the permits desk again to let the operators know I am no longer in the plant before beginning the walk back to the offices.
Another important area of Process Safety is completing regular PHA studies. Similar to a hazard and operability study (HAZOP) a PHA systematically works through nodes on a particular process system with a specialist team and identifies the health, safety and environmental (HSE) risks. So many acronyms, I know. Ah, the life of a chemical engineer.
Some of my team are currently working on a PHA at our Grease Plant and I helped to field validate the piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs) a few months ago. The layout of the drawings was not quite what the site engineer needed, so I have been updating the drawings again to move some control valves onto different drawings. This afternoon I manage to finish up the hand-drawn P&IDs and log them into our system so the drawing office can update the electronic copies. These drawings provide important process safety information, so it is essential that they are accurate. I like seeing that my work is directly used by people around me and I’m really making a difference to people’s projects.
Just before I head off, I check my emails again and update my diary and to-do list for tomorrow. I find it helpful to spend a little time at the end of each day preparing for the next day so I can best prioritise my tasks. After I finish up at my desk, I pack up and walk back out to the carpark, back past the tank farm and the LPG facility. Off come the safety glasses and boots. On my drive home I listen to a podcast, learning all about the amazing history of early Australian women’s suffrage movement.
I arrive home and cook some dinner with whichever housemates are around. All of us work or study in a field of engineering so there is always something interesting to chat about. After dinner I do some knitting – my current project is a jumper and its very slow going at the moment.
I read for a while and then head to bed early so I’m ready for another day on site.