MechChem Africa

In this first SAIChE IChemE Member Profile for 2018, MechChem Africa talks to Hamied Mazema, a chartered engineer, chartered environmentalist and chartered scientist who has been a member of the Institution for over 40 years.

Mazema’s career started at the University of Cape Town back in 1969, where he enrolled for an electrical engineering degree. “But electrical engineering wasn’t for me, so in my second year, I switched to chemical engineering. I have always been fascinated by physics and chemistry, so the change made sense at that time – and I never looked back,” he tells MechChem Africa.

Hamied plant2He graduated from UCT in June 1975 with a BSc Chem Eng and was immediately recruited by African Explosives and Chemical Industries (now AECI) in Somerset West. “In my first assignment I was thrown in at the deep end to commission new sulphur melters for the sulphuric acid plant along with a new exhaust gas scrubbing unit. This set me on the path to specialising in cleaning technologies for environmental protection,” he notes.

“The system worked very well for that time. The old stacks which billowed white sulphurous fumes were replaced by a single stack with an exhaust gas scrubber, which eliminated the white sulphurous mist/fumeshaze, with 99% efficiency – much to the delight of the residents on the hills in Somerset West. The liquid effluent from the scrubber, on the other hand, was reprocessed into product and hence improved the overall process efficiency as well,” he notes.

Quickly promoted to head up AECI’s commissioning team, Mazema then commissioned several projects in the Cape region, namely: liquifiedliquefied SO2 filling plants for 72 kg cylinders and one-tonne drums, used mainly as a preservative in the wine industry; and bulk breaking plants for refrigerant gas, caustic soda and battery acid.

“Our AECI sulphuric acid plants produce acid for the explosives, fertiliser and for the local chemical industries, so I soon transferred to the Blasting Explosives department, where I was the superintendent of the detonating fuse plant, which we we remodelled during my time, along with commissioning a new nitrator unit,” he says.

Then, in June 1977, he he was seconded to the London Head Office of AECI’s parent, ICI plc, where he spent three years supporting the company’s global explosives business. “I had a dual role as assistant to the business co-ordinator, (an ex-ICI Explosives employee, ) and the research coordinator, who was a Canadian seconded from CIL (Canadian Industries Limited). We co-ordinated market, research, competition, technology and safety information, and activities for all of our subsidiaries, which afforded me the opportunity to meet senior management all over the world,” Mazema informs MechChem Africa.

“This was one of the most exciting and rewarding three years of my life. As well as seeing the world, I was directly involved in monitoring developments of new products, technologies, trends and equipment in the mining, construction and logging industries, which all use industrial explosives.

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