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Spotlight: Ewan Ritchie, Graduate Process Engineer at Xodus Group

Tell us a fun fact about yourself

I’m a keen footballer, I played for Edinburgh University first team throughout university.

Tell us about your career journey so far

I attended Westhill Academy between 2008 and 2014. In my fifth year I studied Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Geography and History at higher level. I achieved 5A’s in my fifth year. In sixth year, I studied maths and chemistry at advanced higher and modern studies at higher.

Once I had graduated high school, I moved to Edinburgh to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. University was very hard work but good fun.

In first year, the syllabus is very broad. Engineers from all disciplines study Maths for Engineering and Engineering 1. This allows engineers to swap disciplines during their first year.

In second and third year the syllabus is narrowed and focusses specifically on chemical engineering. The main topics covered are thermodynamics, fluid dynamics and process design.

A large portion of fourth year is spent completing a group design project. This is an all-encompassing project, completed in groups of 6 or 7. The final deliverables are a group report, an individual report and a group presentation. My group was assigned the task to produce enough hydrogen to power all buses in the UK.

In fifth year, the course is less focussed on the technical aspects of engineering and more so on the commercial aspects. I completed courses on economics and supply chain management. I also completed a six-month industrial placement at Xodus Group, in London. During my placement I completed my thesis on the economics of the Southern North Sea.

I worked a variety of summer jobs and travelled as much as I could during summer breaks:

• Camp councillor at Camp Lokanda, New York;

• Activity Leader at an international summer school;

• Travelled Europe with a friend.

I graduated with a first-class MEng degree in 2019. After a six-week break I joined Xodus Group as a graduate process engineer. I have been at Xodus just over a year now and I have worked on a variety of offshore and onshore oil and gas projects.

What was your favourite subject in school and why?

I always liked maths and chemistry. I find completing complex maths problems very rewarding and I like the variety of practical and theoretical work in Chemistry. I always enjoyed P.E too, and I took it as standard grade before dropping it in fifth year.

What subjects/qualifications are useful in your role?

First and foremost, maths is crucial for any engineering degree.

Physics and chemistry are also important, depending on the discipline of engineering you choose to peruse. As a Chemical Engineer, chemistry was vital for my degree, though mechanical and electrical engineers will use more of the theories and equations covered in Physics.

Business Management and Accounts and Finance are also valuable. They provide a basic understanding of the commercial aspects of business that will inevitably be useful later in your career.

Throughout university many assignments involve report writing to some degree. I’d recommend studying English in either fifth or sixth year to improve spelling, punctuation and structure.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

I enjoy building process simulations on HYSYS (a chemical process simulator).

What is a normal day in your role like?

I arrive between 8 and 8:30. Initially I check my emails and speak to my project manager in case any data has been received over night. I’ll then work on the project I’m assigned to, checking in with my supervisor/colleagues frequently throughout the day.

I have an hour for lunch, and I’ll either go to the gym or catch-up with my colleagues. After lunch I’ll carry on my project work, before checking in with my manager before I leave, at 5:30.

We have one team meeting (involving the entire Process and Facilities department) and typically 2/3 project meetings (involving only a smaller team, assigned to a specific project) every week.

Suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?

Completing heat and material balances are critical on any projects. An example of a material balance is shown below.

Skim milk is prepared by the removal of some of the fat from whole milk. This skim milk is found to contain 90.5% water, 3.5% protein, 5.1% carbohydrate, 0.1% fat and 0.8% ash. If the original milk contained 4.5% fat, calculate its composition, assuming that fat only was removed to make the skim milk and that there are no losses in processing.

Prove that the original composition is: water 86.5%, carbohydrate 4.9%, fat 4.5%, protein 3.3%, ash 0.8%.


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