The pulp and paper industry would not be where it is today without investment in research, innovation and technology. Behind these developments are people who were determined to look beyond the obvious. It is this calibre of person that the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA) is inviting to apply for its Master of Science (MSc) study programme which facilitates bursaries and scholarships for eligible candidates.
Open to post-graduate chemical engineering students, the programme facilitates a study bursary through PAMSA’s partner tertiary institutions namely the universities of Stellenbosch, Witwatersrand, Pretoria and KwaZulu-Natal.
Successful candidates will gain advanced skills during their post-graduate training in fields such as wood science, chemical analysis, separation techniques, water and material and energy balances. Not only will they have access to an industrial mentor during their studies, but they will be placed in an engineer-in-training programme at one of PAMSA’s member companies.
Research into the renewability of paper
“In 2013 and 2014, we had nine students working across the country focusing on the paper recycling process, water use, green and renewable energy technologies and innovative practices that not only reduce the industry’s environmental impact but also seek to make optimal use of tree biomass,” says Mike Nash, head of PAMSA’s Process Research Unit.
PAMSA has also been able to assign eight MSc students over the past four years to the pyrolysis reactor project supervised by Professor Mike Heydenrych of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Pretoria (UP). The process involves the heating of biomass such as maize cobs and stalks as well as bark, sawdust and woodchips from timber plantations.
Pyrolysis produces approximately 60% oil from dry biomass, 20% char and 20% non-condensable gas. The non-condensable gas and some of the char can be burnt to drive the pyrolysis process while the char can also be used to improve soil condition.
“The pyrolysis process gives the highest yield of oil when the biomass is heated as fast as possible. Using fluidised bed technology, it is possible to heat sawdust particles to 500°C in less than a second,” explains Professor Mike Heydenrych of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Pretoria. He has developed a novel fluidised bed pyrolysis apparatus and patents have been filed in six countries around the world, including Europe.
Empowering engineers for the future
“Not only will the pyrolysis process have commercial value in time, it has up-skilled students in that they have been able to design, build and operate a laboratory scale pilot plant,” explain Nash.
Nash says that the project has tested their problem solving abilities and forged their understanding of complex analytical procedures.
Sappi bursar and UP Lucja Michalina Wanicka’s MSc thesis and practical work on the pyrolysis reactor has also taught her that it takes courage, motivation and support to achieve one’s goals.
Another student Verlin Govender who is studying as a PAMSA bursar through the University of the Witwatersrand says, “My work involved the water footprinting analysis for South African pulp and paper mills. Not only had the PAMSA bursary programme opened the door to an exciting career but I have been able to give back to the industry through my research.”
Post-graduate chemical engineering students who meet the following requirements are welcome to apply:
- BScEng (chemical engineering) candidates interested in enrolling for MScEng studies in fields that satisfy the aims of the pulp, paper and packaging industry.
- A good academic record with a minimum 60% average in the final year of study.
- Applicants must have completed their studies in five years or less.
- Candidates should indicate their areas of interest e.g. water reduction, nano products, energy efficiency, renewable energy and biopolymers.
- South African citizenship is an advantage.
Closing date: 30 September 2014
Applications – which should include a full CV and a motivation letter – can be directed to: Patti Webster | firstname.lastname@example.org | Tel: +27 (0) 11 803 5063 | Fax: +27 (0) 11 803 6708
PAMSA’s Process Research Unit was formed to expand a regional research initiative and promote the sustainability of the local pulp, paper and packaging industry.
Apart from its bursary programme, the unit coordinates research for the development of processes to efficiently utilise biomass feedstock (trees) for conversion to bio-products (paper and chemicals) and energy with minimal environmental impact. It also seeks to develop academic/research centres of excellence, both locally and abroad and engages in collaborative partnerships with industry and government agencies.