Here is a story about one of our Chemical Engineering students, and some of his work term experiences in the petrochemical industry. It’s typical of the variety of things that our students do during their 6 workterms over the course of our program.
by Shannon Tigert. A version of this piece originally appeared in the Spring 2013, ed. 2 issue of the Inside sCo-op newsletter.
Brodie Germain (4A Chemical Engineering) spent two rewarding co-op work terms at Suncor Energy. With his first two co-op jobs completed elsewhere, he was hired for his third work term as an Environmental Health and Safety Intern at Suncor’s wastewater treatment plant at the Mississauga Lubricant Facility. In this position, Brodie sampled the water the plant was using to ensure it was within government regulations.
Brodie’s position in his subsequent term at Suncor was Technical Services Intern, a support role for different engineers in the department. Each engineer is responsible for a different section of the plant, and by assisting all of them Brodie gained a variety of experiences.
A major project of Brodie’s during this term was a management of change analysis involving a heat exchanger problem; fluids passed through tubes to be heated and cooled. One of the fluids was picking up too much heat, reaching dangerously high temperatures. Various concerns and issues needed to be addressed, but Brodie appreciated the challenge. That’s because he connected what he was learning with things he had already done in school, like hydraulic calculations, collecting drawings and data sheets, and using logical thinking. Doing this kind of work was “as relevant as it gets” to his engineering degree, says Brodie: “I was able to find my strengths and weaknesses while developing my communication skills and technical foundations. A solid technical skills foundation is the most important practical thing to have as an engineer.”
To solve the heating problem, the engineers at the plant opened a bypass line that allowed some of the water to go around the heat exchanger. Brodie prepared a package including all of the calculations, a step-by-step procedure of how to implement the changes, and the measures he took to ensure that all of the calculations were sound.
This was presented at the end of his term to the Hydrogen unit engineer and Brodie’s direct supervisor.
Brodie’s work terms at Suncor were invaluable: “Suncor has a great co-op program. They make it pretty obvious that they care a lot about the people they hire. They’re genuinely trying to create some quality talent.” As Brodie has learned, co-op is an important component of engineering degrees at Waterloo in many ways.
Michael Fowler, Associate Chair (Undergraduate Studies) in chemical engineering has this to say:
“Brodie’s experience with Suncor represents many of the traditional roles a Chemical Engineer can fill in a plant environment. Certainly, chemical engineers support the design and maintenance of the chemical process itself and all of the process infrastructure. Safety and environmental concerns are very important to all industries, especially petrochemical. Our chemical engineering students are ideally suited and very often fill positions in the environmental and safety departments, because they have an understanding of the process itself which is critical in that role. Waterloo greatly appreciates the support from Suncor in the form of scholarships, co-op positions in both upstream and downstream petrochemical processing, as well as careers for many of our graduates. In Brodie’s case, he’s been exposed to different fields that he may follow in the future, including selection of his academic technical electives which will help to prepare him for his career.”
Brodie is currently working at Suncor for his last work term.
6 thoughts on “A Sample Co-op Experience in Chemical Engineering”
hi sir. in school, the course i am struggling with is chemistry and i am in gr 12. im doing very well on everything else. how do we study chemistry? i work very hard but i still dont do well and i love engineering
Chemistry seems to be a common problem for a lot of applicants (although not so much for chemical engineering applicants). How to study? It’s like most courses: review your notes regularly (after each class); read the textbook for alternative views; do extra problems and examples; pay attention to why you do things for each problem (deep learning), rather than just how to do it (rote learning).
the sad thing is, i work really hard. im attentive during class, i try to focus fully, but in ib hl chemistry, i try to understand the concepts in class, but it’s almost impossible. im a very hardworker. there are a lot of people who are naturally smart and are lazy, and they dont do well. i have high 80s in all my courses except chemistry i have 58. im working very hard though.
Well don’t give up, and keep up the hard work. It will generally pay off eventually. HL Chem will be very good preparation for university.
i love waterloo engineering. thing is, when we are taught chemistry, i focus a lot on understanding why things happen and really try to understand the process, but by the time i figure that thing out, we’re onto the next section. tbh, atomic theory, thermochemistry is easy, but organic reactions learning the mechanisms, doing synthesis reactions, i found that to be horrific. after conversion my math and physics mark are >90. these subjects i dont even study for. but chemistry. i spend so much time on. my teacher said that people who are good in math tend to be good in chemistry as well.
I always struggled with organic chemistry reaction mechanisms too. I guess we just have to make up for it in other areas.