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SASOL helps fund Unit Operations Lab renovation

A contribution from South African Coal and Oil, SASOL, is helping Lamar University upgrade the aging Unit Operations Laboratory in the Dan F. Smith Department of Chemical Engineering. The company’s North American headquarters is in Westlake, La.

“SASOL’s generosity is helping the Chemical Engineering department at Lamar University renovate its Unit Operations Lab,” said department chair T.C. Ho. “We are very appreciative of SASOL and this gift of $10,000.” In 2012, SASOL contributed $15,000 to get the project started.

Benson Keers Guilbeaux Nguyen“We’re glad to make this donation to Lamar because working in the Unit Operations Laboratory is one of the key things to make students successful when they go out into industry,”

The laboratory, created in 1978, has introduced scores of chemical engineering students to various types of industrial units, including distillation, absorption and cooling towers, as well as heat exchangers and gas separation membrane unites.

Advances in technology and automation, and the need to simulate the challenges facing the chemical process industry today, make upgrading the laboratory an urgent need, said Tracy Benson, assistant professor of chemical engineering.

Joining Benson in the afternoon presentation were Gary Keers, senior principal engineer, Dustin Guilbeaux and David Nguyen, both Lamar chemical engineering graduates who are employed by SASOL. After the presentation, Keers shared insights on working in the industry with senior chemical engineering majors in the chemical engineering seminar room.

New processes planned for the lab include a $150,000 distillation system with automated controls to teach mass and energy balance, yield, tray efficiencies, vapor and liquid rate profiles and process control.  A new $150,000 shell and tube heat exchanger with steam generator and automatic controls will be used to teach heat transfer coefficients, pressure drops versus baffles, unsteady state behavior and process control.

A new $100,000 gas absorption system, with gas chromatograph, is planned for teaching mass transfer coefficients, packed column dynamics, column efficiency and absorption exothermic effects. Modification of the existing fluid flow system with DCS instrumentation, estimated at $100,000, will allow students to explore flow restriction analysis, equivalent pipe lengths, and pump curves versus impeller diameter.

A new $75,000 membrane ultrafiltration system with online oxygen sensor analysis will present studies in membrane permeability, flux, and process variables versus separation efficiency. And a new $75,000 CSTR reaction system with online FTIR analysis will provide lessons in kinetics analysis, residence time and conversion.

SASOL’s global business interests include mining, energy, chemicals and synfuels. In particular, SASOL produces petrol and diesel profitably from coal and natural gas using the Fischer-Tropsch process.