File image: IOL

CAPE TOWN - The collaboration between UCT and Eskom on Applied Thermo Fluid Process Modelling Research Unit (ATProM) seeks to provide engineers with up-to-date research, and real-world experience and solutions to some of the challenges facing the aging energy infrastructure in South Africa.

"ATProM was officially accredited at the end of 2017 with the mandate to focus on the application of the fundamental principles of fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and heat and mass transfer to model industrial processes," UCT said in a statement.

UCT’s Mechanical Engineering Professor, one of the heads of the ATProM Wim Fuls believes that the creation of ATProM could not have come at a better time. 

"ATProM is ideally suited to provide Eskom with skilled engineers who fundamentally understand the thermal process of a power plant," Fuls said.

Also read: Koko the latest Eskom executive to leave under a cloud of controversy

It is understood that one of the key aims of this collaboration is to bridge the current skills gap within the power utility by sending engineers to universities to conduct applied research within the power industry.

Kapil Sukhnandan, the industrial coordinator between Eskom and ATProM explains, "Engineers return to Eskom with the required qualifications, leadership thinking, and skills to make a positive impact to the Eskom engineering business in terms of operational sustainability, design challenges and application of new technologies. This collaboration also aids Eskom in having direct access to expert academics to assist with its immediate operational challenges that come up".

According to Priyesh Gosai, the manager of ATProM, 20 students have graduated from this unit.

Willie Le Grange, who completed his thesis on developing computerised models of a coal-fired power station network’s main components, describes the interaction with Eskom engineers as one of the highlights of his degree. 

"Being able to have regular talks with the Eskom engineers on the inner workings of a power station gave that edge of being able to successfully complete the degree. The academic world has a lot of solutions but sometimes the implementation or focus of these solutions can be vague. The collaboration between UCT and Eskom enables us to regularly shift the focus of the solutions to have a meaningful and lasting impact on today’s energy problems".

Eskom first funded the establishment of the Eskom Specialisation Centre in Energy Efficiency as a part of the Eskom Power Plant Engineering Institute (EPPEI) programme in 2012.

The head of the EPPEI at UCT, Louis Jestin, believes that ATProM has a critical role to play in better understanding the physical processes of power generation.

Top story: Meet South Africa's new first lady - Tshepo Motsepe

Also read: BREAKING: Atul Gupta challenges Estina court order