A tribute to our engineers

Our engineers don’t need a lot more than just brains to construct gigantic plants. A visit to Donaldsonville, Louisiana, helps me understand what it means to be one of them.


Enthusiasm for round angles

Wow, the United States is a massive country! Everything here is so big! It’s not just the cars, the potholes, and the extra-large Starbucks cups; our project in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, is a big one, too. The existing fertilizer plant belonging to our customer CF Industries is currently being expanded. An ammonia plant with a capacity of 3,300 metric tons (almost as much as 1,000 elephants), a UAN plant, and a urea granulation plant are just small pieces of this huge puzzle. Our engineers designed the entire puzzle and are now providing on-site support during construction of the plant.

I had intended to delve into the technical details at this point and illustrate how important fertilizer is to our lives. (And it really is! How else are we supposed to access food in our growing megacities?) However, it was something else that caught my attention during our time on the construction site. It was my sense of total awe toward the engineers, especially toward Hans and Guido, the two engineers who showed us around their construction site and talked at length about how there are really beautiful round angles around here.

Losing count at 20 countries

“We need more fertilizer for North America.” The order must have sounded something like that. The customer’s site is now full of steel constructions that couldn’t look more complex. Gazing at the pipes, cables, and containers, I ask myself how it is possible to implement an order like this in reality. How do you approach such a mammoth task?

“You know, this isn’t our first time,” jokes Guido. Experience appears to play a decisive role for the engineers. Moreover, Donaldsonville is home to knowledge from all over the world. A team of 25 share an office on the construction site, with colleagues hailing from Germany, Egypt, India, and the United States. Each one of them has as much international experience as the next, as travel comes as part of the job for many engineers. “Karl is retiring soon. I think he lost count after working in about 20 different countries during his career,” says Guido, who himself has developed plants in eight countries within the space of just seven years. I think you have to be born for this kind of life, and Guido seems to see it this way, too: “I couldn’t spend my entire life working in an office.”

I like my desk, but I’m happy that there are men like Hans, Guido, and Karl out there (although I heard through the grapevine that Karl’s wife has the final say when it comes to selecting countries). Thanks for doing it, boys. Thanks for traveling the world for us and using your expertise. Megacities like New York, Tokyo, and Berlin have a lot of hungry mouths to feed.

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