INDUSTRY: It’s all in the chemistry at Superior’s Calumet refineryIn many high school chemistry classes, students learn to boil water, burn elements with Bunsen burners and try not to shatter breakers. The work that chemists do at Calumet is not very elementary.
By: By Blake Melin/For the Superior Telegram, Superior Telegram
In many high school chemistry classes, students learn to boil water, burn elements with Bunsen burners and try not to shatter breakers.
The work that chemists do at Calumet is not very elementary.
Chemists are not only helping to provide the gas and diesel fuel needed to run vehicles, they are also helping to create asphalt on roads and propane to heat homes.
Their work is mostly comprised of a constant swarm of quality control tests, but periodically they will do some research.
“About the only research we do is helping the customer,” said John Peterson, who was hired at Calumet in 1995 and is now a senior chemist. “It’s rewarding when you figure out what is wrong.”
According to Dave Podratz, plant manager at Calumet, about half of the people who start working at the company as a chemist will stay in the chemistry field, the other half will move to different jobs throughout the company.
“Working in the lab is very hands on when dealing with products and instruments,” said Dave Beattie, former chemist and current environmental engineer at Calumet, “[Now] I take care of hazardous waste disposal, storm water permitting, wetland permitting and spill compliance. It’s a lot more office work.”
According to Podratz, when hiring new chemists a good amount of knowledge in their chosen field is necessary; however, having good chemistry and bonding with fellow employees is more important.
“I really just enjoy all of it,” said Natalie Bugliosi, a chemist in her 11th year at the Calumet refinery. “I get to work with people in the labs; I like the wide variety of testing, and I am not stuck at a computer all day.”
“[Working] with people and helping people out is rewarding.” Beattie said.
For a company that produces thousands of barrels of oil per day, events such as a recent power outage can set them back. However, in the lab, different problems may cause negative reactions concerning the completion of work.
“Science isn’t perfect,” said Bugliosi. “You can get instruments that are not cooperating with you and when instruments are not working with you, it’s frustrating, but that is just part of the job. “
All three of these employees at the refinery entered into the company as chemists, but that is not the only thing they all have in common, they all graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
All three also had some advice for future possible chemical apprentices.
According to Bugliosi, the best way to enter the job field is to get an internship in a lab setting and “get your hands wet.” This would provide the prospective chemist valuable experience when finally entering the job field.
“There are chemist jobs out there and sometimes you might have to be willing to travel, but chemists are in demand,” said Peterson. “Do the best you can in school and hopefully you land a job you like.”