This week at the Moerdijk power plant we introduced a new
toy to our arsenal to help me carry out my work as steam chemistry engineer. As
some of you may know, or perhaps not, Silica is present in the steam system as
it is used for steam attemperation (regulates steam temperature). The downside
of using this stuff is that it can form deposits on the turbine blade surface
reducing its efficiency. Basically if you have too much Silica the steam
doesn’t make the turbine spin round and round as well as it should, meaning you
don’t generate as much electricity. As you definitely know, you need
electricity to play your Xbox and inform your friends on facebook that you just
made some toast. Ergo, it is important we know exactly how much Silica is
rattling around inside those pipes and this is where my new toy steps in. I
have been given the responsibility of using a spectrometer, an incredibly
accurate (and expensive) wee machine that can measure the Silica content of water
samples I take from the power plant. This machine has been set up inside my
‘new office’ inside an industrial storage container. It kind of reminds me of
the office from the ‘IT Crowd’.
So that was the good news, now for the bad news: sadly we
weren’t able to carry on our winning streak that we’ve maintained over the last
month. On Wednesday a knocking sound was heard coming from one of the turbine
bearings; this resulted in the plant having to be shutdown and allowed to cool
down for several days before it will be safe to open the hatch and see what is
causing the knocking sound. Hopefully we didn’t leave anyone inside (just
kidding, a piece of machinery or something has probably come loose). However
you will have to wait until next week’s blog before I definitely know what is
causing this hindrance in operation.
Due to the previous day’s bad news we had a rather quiet day
in the office on Thursday as a lot of the team’s regular day to day tasks
couldn’t be performed with the plant being offline (including my own). However,
I sat with my boss Gregory and we wrote up the previous week’s chemistry
report. In addition, I set up a conference call with fellow GE Saltire Intern
Euan McCall who is working in Belfort, France on a steam chemistry research
project. We discussed the activities I’ve been carrying out to see if I could
provide any useful information for his project. I’ve sent him some reports and
documents that will hopefully aid him in his research. We will find out at out
next conference call next week!
One plus that came out of the plant being down was that Gregory
very kindly let me have Friday off as he knew my family were coming to visit me
for the weekend for my birthday! An excellent result.
Yeah so my parents and my brother Michael arrived on Friday
afternoon for my birthday after a long drive from Livingston down to Dover,
across to Dunkirk on the ferry then a stretch through Belgium into The
Netherlands. Sadly my sister couldn’t join them as she used all her holidays up
It was great to see them and be able to talk in my Scottish
dialect again for a few days as I’m beginning to sound like a BBC news
presenter from the 1960’s speaking ‘proper’ English in order to be understood
by my work colleagues. They also brought a few Scottish items with them to show
my French friends including: irn bru, haggis and shortbread (thanks Mags).
We spent Friday afternoon touring Breda’s city centre and
catching up on what I’ve been missing back home and what I’ve been getting up
to on my internship. After showing them round my new home we had dinner in a
little Italian restaurant before jumping in a taxi to Breda South and joining
the guys from work for a drink at the Belgian restaurant I told you about a few
blogs ago. It turned out that we arrived in the middle of a Kermesse: a kind of
Dutch festival like a massive street party; you can buy alcohol and drink in
the street and there are fairground rides, a pretty busy place! Apparently this
festival was taking place over the whole weekend, I wouldn’t like to be the
dude/dudette who has to clean up afterwards. I typed Kermesse into google and
from what I found it seems the festival originated in 1369 where people
celebrated the execution of thousands of people during the Crusades. Bad times.
Anyway enough of the horrible histories lesson, I introduced
my family to my work colleagues and we all had a nice wee blether over some
As my brother was staying with me at my apartment, we walked
to Breda train station the following morning and met up with my folks and
jumped on the Fyra train to Amsterdam. As luck would have it, my family had
visited me during the best weather I’ve experienced so far here in Holland and
this was ideal for all the sightseeing around the capital. Our first stop was
the Anne Frank House and museum. I think it goes without saying it’s an
interesting place to see and would recommend you visit if you ever go to
Amsterdam. Other sights included the Heineken Brewery, the Rijksmuseum, city
hall and a boat tour round the Amsterdam canals.
We returned to Breda in the evening and went to dinner at
Spanish Tapas restaurant. As my folks aren’t as young as they used to be they
retired to their hotel after teas. However my brother and I went to Mikel from
the team’s party at his apartment where we all toasted my birthday on the
stroke of midnight.
In the morning my parents came to the apartment with lots of
birthday cards from friends and family from back home. Thanks guys :D, shame on
you if you didn’t send me one.
Later we drove to Kinderdijk (mentioned in my previous
blogs) and we rented some bicycles and toured round the windmills and luckily
we were blessed with another great day of sunshine.
After returning we got dressed into our evening wear and
went out for my birthday dinner. We went to Dickens and Jones, the place I went
to with the team the first Friday I was here in Breda (see Part 1). This time
however, the weather was good enough to dine outside and enjoy the sunshine.
Afterwards we met up with Veronique (the lady who showed me
the ropes and looked after me for the first few weeks of the internship) and I
introduced her to my parents over some drinks.
The parentals and my brother hit the road early on Monday
morning just before I went to work.
It was a really enjoyable weekend, great to see my family.
However, now I’m 22, getting old…
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