A hot summer spent in biofuels production to complement studies
Olli Kauppinen, 25, swapped the seashores of Salo for the lakeside scenery of Saimaa when he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and started studying chemistry at the Lappeenranta University of Technology. Since then this young man has spent his summers moving around south-eastern Finland trying out various processing industry jobs. This year’s scorching summer at UPM Biofuels added practical experience to the theoretical knowledge acquired at university.
“Here at the biorefinery, I’ve been able to see how the chemical industry really works in practice. I mean, it’s great to read about the processes from a textbook, but in this job I’ve seen what they mean in real life and what they are based on,” Olli says of his tasks as a utility operator.
At his summer job Olli has been responsible for the operation of various systems at the production plant, such as the water, steam and nitrogen systems. The innovative production process he was involved with was developed at UPM’s own research centre in Lappeenranta.
In practice his work days consist of making field rounds to monitor the transformation of crude tall oil into renewable UPM BioVerno diesel. He also takes test samples for the laboratory to make sure that the production process is running as planned. Beyond that, every day includes special tasks such as receiving and unloading deliveries, resolving problems and malfunctions and helping colleagues with their tasks.
“Some days I spend most of my shift doing monitoring in the control room, and others I am running around in the field throughout the day. In the best cases, you can get quite a lot of healthy exercise during a work day. Even though summer employees don’t usually get holidays, the shift rotation has given me enough free time to do some travelling too,” the young man explains, happy with the six free days in a row in his shift rotation.
Young, small and fast
The Lappeenranta biorefinery is unique in its class and has been manufacturing renewable diesel on a commercial scale for just four years. Like the production plant itself, most of its employees are young: “Summer employees are usually the youngest of the lot, but my shift has one regular worker who is younger than me,” Olli says. His preconception of UPM as a large, traditional and slow-moving forestry company quickly changed when he started working as an operator at the biorefinery.
“This is still a fairly new process for me and, actually, it is for everyone else too. You get to see all sorts of exciting things in this kind of environment - when something new comes along, everyone gathers to investigate the situation, even if it is outside their own field. UPM Biofuels is a relatively small organisation, so you get to know all the refinery staff fairly well in a short time. I can go and have a chat with anyone here.”
Olli wants to continue doing practical work in the future. His dream job does not consist of just paperwork or staring down a microscope but includes development work where he can really see the results of his handiwork. Olli believes that UPM could offer quite a few interesting options for this. First, though, he is going to follow his summer job with a thesis project.
“UPM has extensive research and development functions, so I’m sure I can find lots of interesting jobs. Here at UPM Biofuels I can be a part of a unique industry that will certainly grow and remain interesting in the future. I’m glad that green values are now being highlighted on a larger scale and implemented in industry.”
Author: Elina Räihä
Photo: Ville Vauhkonen