Annual Engineering Dinner 2024EESW Project Awards 2024Technical Site Visit - AlkegenWales National Eisteddfod August 2023Technical Visit to Atlas CopcoVisit to the Michael Beetham Conservation CentreMersey Tidal Power Project Quadcopter presentationTalk and site visit to Ynni OgwenHydrogen – Helping to meet the UKs Net Zero targetsJoint Lecture with RAeS A 350 – Diverse FutureMarine EnergyAdvanced Manufacturing Research Center (AMRC)STEM activity Raytheon Quadcopter Challenge 2021, Regional Final.Behind the Scenes at the RAF MuseumThe Seven Ways to Engineer ResilienceSixth Form Project Assessments and AwardsTechnical Lecture: - “Climate Change and Renewable Energy – The solutions and their problems”Presidential Visit Oct 2019Technical Lecture Automobile Division Chair’s Address - 100 Years of Bentley MotorsWirral Arts Festival – How engineering and technology are transforming the healthcare sector!Technical Lecture - The U-Battery, providing local low carbon energy? Visit to the Queensway (Birkenhead) TunnelWales National Eisteddfod 2019New Members Event July 2019Technical Visit to Hoylake Station- June 2019Technical Visit – Tata Steel- Apr 19Technical Lecture Arion 5- Feb 19Atlas Copco Visit- Nov 2018Energy Storage Talk- Nov 2018Wirral Arts Festival- Oct 2018Urenco Site Visit July 2018New Members Event July 2018UAS Challenge June 2018Community Hydro visitCammell Laird- Apprentice VisitEESW Big Bang - March 2018Annual Dinner - March 2018Land Rover 4x4 Schools Technology Challenge Jan 18Space Debris Jan 2018IMechE Engineering Heritage Award - The Daniel Adamson - a fully restored 1903 steam shipEngineering Your Future Careers all day Event- NOv 17Vist to Vauxhall Motors Ellesmere Port Nov 2017Quadcopter Challenge - Nov 2017School's Challenge - Nov 2017Skills Cymru 2017Engineering Your Future Careers all day Event - OctWales GB Rally - Oct 2017Region Supporting Team Falcon F1 in SchoolsWales National Eisteddfod - August 2017Presidential Visit and Annual Dinner - March 2017Bangor Science Festival - March 2017Solar Vehicles - Jan 2017Wave Energy Technical Lecture - Nov 2016Technical Visit to Toyota (Deeside Plant) - May 2016Wales GB RallyRegion Supporting Team Tachyon F1 in SchoolsTechnical Visit to RWEs Dolgarrog Hydro Site - May 2016Technical Visit to Electroimpact - May 2016Breaking the Human Powered land speed record - April 2016EESW Big Bang Event and IMechE Award - April 2016Farwell to Magnox - Seminar - Oct 2015From Formula 1 to Everyday Use (part of the Heswall Arts Festival ) 1 Oct 2015Vehicle Technology: Where Next? 1st Oct 2015Visit to Hoylake Lifeboat Station - Sept 2015Bright Lights and Engineering Technical Seminar June 2015Technical Visit to the Anderton Boat Lift - Oct 2013The History and Design of the Sea PloughYoung Person of the Year 2009 AwardVisit to the Deeside Power StationOpTIC TechniumSustainable EnergyProcessing Energy from WasteSir Alec Issigonis The man and his machineWaterside Most Improved Apprentice 2009

Technical Site Visit - Alkegen

On the evening of the 1st February a group of us were able to attend a site visit at Alkegen’s Widnes site.

The evening was hosted by Ian Durrans (Site Manager) and Jason Brown (Engineering Manager)

Ian began with a short presentation explaining Alkegen as a company and the operations on the Widnes site.

Alkegen is a multinational company with over 60 manufacturing facilities and 9,000-plus employees. It develops and manufactures specialist materials used in a wide number of industries such as Construction and Automotive.

The Widnes site was established in the 1970’s by ICI. It’s original purpose was to produce Alumina based insulation materials as a substitute for Asbestos.

The process consists of a batch mixing plant and 3 manufacturing lines. Currently the most modern (Line 3) is in constant use, Line 2 can be used occasionally and the original (Line 1) is due to be removed. 

The site and it’s buildings suffered from neglect under previous ownership and Ian explained the challenges of reversing this. The recent and current investment was evident during the site tour. The current major program is the rerouting and replacement of all of the High Tension cabling and switchgear. In the original installation this was integral within line 1, hence line 1 cannot be removed until this is rerouted and replaced at a cost of around £3Million.

The site tour concentrated on line 3 which operates on a 5 crew 3 shift 7 day working pattern. The details of the line are proprietary but in essence the alumina mix from the batch mixing plant (which we did not see) is “spun” into a fibre which is then woven into a matt and is heat treated. The finish matt is then rolled into reels (light enough to be man handled) and packed into ~1m3 cardboard boxes. The process is not noisy or dusty and overall the operating environment was very pleasant.

Ian explained some of the recent interesting process development advances that have been made aimed at improving productivity, reducing waste and the (considerable) energy consumption. Much of this revolved around making the process visible, using highly specialised glass panels, modelling of the airflows within the various chambers and tuning and balancing to ensure a smooth formation of the fibre matt. The results were clear to see on the site tour.

The evening concluded with a wide ranging discussion.

John Pollard

I.Mech.E. Regional Chairman – Merseyside and N Wales

© 2023 Institution of Mechanical Engineers. IMechE is a registered charity in England and Wales number 206882