Neeraja Vallabhapurapu comes from the south of India, but feels completely at home in the port of Antwerp. When she is not working at Project ONE, she prefers to be in the kitchen with her young son. You will often find the two hidden behind a book as well.
Neeraja, as Control and Automation Engineer, wants to make life easier for operators. She and her colleagues in the automation team are already working on this. “Even before the installation is built, we correct and optimise all the processes here.”
Major impact on safety
To achieve this, Neeraja works with the latest technologies, such as procedural automation. “The ethane cracker is a complex unit and safety is paramount. We therefore want people to be able to focus on the complex actions. We will automate the simpler procedures for them.”
In order to get a better picture of how the installation will ultimately work, Neeraja and her colleagues are building a shadow plant. “Even before the installation is built, we have already created a digital model. This way the operators can practice different situations in a simulator. How do you get started? How do you react? We can test that now and make adjustments in advance to make the unit as safe as possible.”
Smart control systems ensure reliable, efficient and above all safe installation. “We design everything from scratch. Everything you do therefore has a big impact. I am very proud of that,” adds Neeraja.
An instant fan of Project ONE
When INEOS announced Project ONE, Neeraja was immediately interested. “I was already working in the port of Antwerp at that time, so I had my finger on the pulse. As soon as I saw a vacancy that matched my interests, I seized the opportunity with both hands. Less than a month later, I joined Project ONE.”
Neeraja was no stranger to large projects and companies, but she knew immediately that Project ONE was something completely different. “Such a big project, where you can contribute ideas from the beginning, you don’t find that every year, not even every decade,” she says enthusiastically. “The feeling that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is felt by everyone involved in the project. I also strongly believe in setting a good example, and that’s what we do with Project ONE. We are paving the way for the rest of the industry to start using cleaner technologies. That really is a game changer.”
“The fact that you can participate in such a project is unique, it doesn’t get any bigger than this.”
So many possibilities
Neeraja also wants to be an example on a personal level. “As a female engineer you are still working in a men’s world. But I want to show young women that it doesn’t have to hold them back. When I was a student, I met a female engineer from Shell. That made such an impression on me and it really made a big difference to my career. Role models are important and I also believe that diversity makes our industry stronger.”
Neeraja has not yet discovered obstacles or glass ceilings at INEOS. “The working atmosphere is very open. Your gender or age doesn’t matter. If you have a good idea, people will listen to you. After all that is very important in a project of this size. You continue to learn from each other and you grow with the project. There is also no better time to start at Project ONE than now. There are so many possibilities, including in the automation department. The fact that you can participate in such a project is unique, it doesn’t get any bigger than this.”