About

About This Blog:
This weblog has been around in one form or another since 2004. Somehow most of the posts have been maintained through 3 blog software transitions (MT, rublog, WP). Initially the blog was mainly technology related, but today is more focused on steelmaking technology, economic issues and what’s going on with me. I also try to post frequently on my google+ page because it makes a great micro-blogging platform.

pic of me

About Me:
I am an Electrical Engineer and third generation steelmaker. I am currently employed by SGL Carbon Group where I assist our customers with improvement projects. I have been to 4 continents, lived on 2, visited 16 countries and worked in 9. I am curious and enjoy learning, technical challenges, meeting new people and international travel and culture. In the little spare time that I have I enjoy working with Linux / open source, music, exercise / sports, and reading.

My Career In A Nutshell:
My official resume is located here. Read on for something less formal in reverse chronological order.

I am an Electrical and Software Engineer working in the steel industry. I am not currently seeking a new position but am always willing to consider opportunities. My ideal position would involve financial and/or economic modeling and numerical optimization, require continuous learning and improvement, development of new technologies and offer opportunities for professional advancement.

I have extensive and diverse experience in both Electrical and Software Engineering. Software experience includes formal development such as working on a large team following a CMM level 4 development process for development of FAA air traffic control systems at one end of the spectrum and solo development of software to integrate industrial devices in a steel melt shop at the non-formal end of the spectrum. My electrical experience includes all aspects of maintenance, engineering and operation of high power industrial systems in steel production facilities.

I have worked in every imaginable group setting from small groups of colleagues working for the same company in the same office to large groups composed of colleagues from multiple companies and customers distributed internationally. For the last 3 years I have traveled to customer facilities and worked remotely as part of an internationally distributed group

I am a motivated self starter and able to learn independently. I enjoy learning and continuous improvement and having the opportunity to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. I understand that this sounds cliche, but please read through my experience below for some specific examples.

Most of my career has been in the steel industry. I started in the industry as an hourly laborer while in college, worked several positions in between and eventually gained a Plant Engineer position.

I am currently employed as a Senior Manager for SGL Carbon Group. My primary responsibility is management of projects to improve customers’ efficiency and/or production. I travel to customer facilities to work directly with them and work from home when not traveling. Notable accomplishments include the following:

PRO ARC: The electric arc furnace (EAF) is a three phase power delivery system where high power electric arcs are utilized to melt scrap metal to produce steel. The EAF has several characteristics which make the power system unique:

  • It is an unbalanced three phase system.
  • It is a time varying system.
  • It is non-linear.
  • The process is impacted by high levels of variance.
  • Commercial EAF control systems are non-linear, stochastic and contain 100’s of configuration variables.
EAF Diagram

The result is that commercial power system analysis software and standard analysis techniques are not capable of modeling and optimization of EAF power and control systems. Recognizing this, I persuaded management to provide me with the time to develop a Matlab based modeling, simulation and analysis tool to use for our customer improvement projects. I developed the software and documentation, trained several colleagues, applied the tool at multiple customer projects to achieve results and increase sales and wrote and presented a paper at the 2015 METEC conference in Dusseldorf Germany. The tool was commercially branded as SGL PRO ARC and has provided customers with millions of dollars in annual production cost reduction and process improvement. It has been applied to every shape, size and type of EAF in industry including a 6-phase smelting furnace.

Control Sim
PRO ARC Dynamic Response Output

The tool is composed of three phase EAF power system analysis logic, an active model for static VAR compensators and calculates the electrical parameters at each electrical base including the arcs. It emulates the control logic of the EAF control system under analysis which enables detailed analysis of the combined arc and mast-hydraulic response. I believe this tool is the most comprehensive and advanced EAF analysis software ever developed.

CEDIS: SGL has offered an EAF measurement and reporting system for several years. It is a simple system that relies on  logic and e-mail features contained in the Schneider Electric ION series of power quality meters. I recognized that the current system imposed major constraints on the features that we could offer and so began implementation of the system in software using the ruby programming language. I have designed and implemented multiple new innovations to this system.

Patents: I have developed the technology, written patent applications and submitted two patents to the USPTO. Two patents are pending at this time:

  • Method and Algorithm for Dynamic Selection of Electric Arc Furnace Control Set-Points: This patent deals with the application of continuous numerical optimization to control of the EAF for the purpose of minimizing energy consumption.
  • Method for Detection of Loss of Electric Arc Furnace Measurement Reference: The patent deals with detection of damage to the measurement reference which is a frequent occurrence that is difficult to detect and results in sub-optimal EAF operation.
2012-05-18_12-17-04_289
SSC Medium Voltage Protective Relays

From 06/2010 through 02/2013 I worked as the Plant Electrical Engineer for Sterling Steel Company in Sterling Illinois. I was much less involved with process optimization and much more involved with Power System Engineering, maintenance and management of CAPEX projects. There was no shortage of power system work at SSC. One of my more notable accomplishment was convincing management to provide the capital to replace the protective relaying system for the medium voltage distribution. Improving protective systems was not a priority for management, but energy metering was thought to have a legitimate payback. I performed the engineering and management of the revamp of the 15KV protection and metering systems in order to keep the cost down. The existing system was a 1950’s vintage analog system that relied on the utilities analog energy meters. The analog relays were replaced with modern SEL-751A digital relays and SEL-734P power quality meters were installed to provide independent energy metering and high speed event logs for voltage sag detection (a common occurrence). The metering and protection was integrated using SEL RTACs. For years I have been advising facilities to spend the time and effort to install independent energy metering as a check against their utility bill. Interestingly enough, as soon as the power quality meters were commissioned we found an anomaly in the energy metering that was resulting in the facility being over-charged on the order of 10’s of thousands of dollars per month.

In June of 2009 I made the decision to travel less, stay home more and begin consulting. I consulted for a year until starting with Sterling Steel Company. This was a less than optimal point in the economic cycle to begin a consulting service. However, I retained enough business to get by and learned some valuable lessons which I described in this post. The bulk of my work during this period was focused on power quality analysis, flicker, harmonics and mitigation with static VAR compensation (SVC). One notable project was analysis that I provided to a customer (a steel melting facility) and their utility provider. The facility was concerned that their static VAR compensation was not reliable and could fail at any time resulting in increased levels of voltage flicker. They were contractually obligated to mitigate flicker so that the value remained below a threshold set by their utility. A new transmission line had been installed to the facility, increasing the maximum load that could be supplied. My analysis indicated that the facility no longer required the static VAR compensation to reduce voltage flicker below the contractually obligated threshold. After reviewing the analysis with the utility we were able to persuade them to allow the facility to operate without the SVC in the event of failure. Unbelievably the SVC failed a few months later and the facility continued operation without it.

EAFAT Control Panel
EAFAT Control Panel

The estimates I provided in my analysis for voltage flicker and other important electrical parameters were right on target.

While consulting I developed a java language based EAF analysis tool similar to SGL PRO ARC described above, but not as comprehensive. The tool was called EAF Analysis Tool (EAFAT). The EAFAT was my first attempt at a three phase, non-linear, time-varying EAF power system model with active SVC simulation and the ability to account for transmission voltage variance and the impact of secondary loads served from the same voltage bus (e.g. other EAFs, LMFs) and calculate arc parameters. EAFAT was applied to the analysis of many EAFs and found to be highly accurate as described by the flicker estimates above.

EAFAT Calculations
EAFAT Calculations

I’m not much of a java language fan and can’t remember my exact reasons for developing the tool in java. However, it was very well designed, implemented and something I am very proud of developing. I still look at the code from time to time and am impressed by the quality of it.

In February of 2006 I was employed as the Plant Electrical Engineer for Gerdau Ameristeel at the plant in Wilton Iowa. I had been attending courses for an MS in Electrical Engineering at the University of Iowa for the previous 3 years and was completing my Master’s Thesis (Identification, Simulation and Optimization of an Electric Arc Furnace Melting Process) at this time. I had the opportunity to work with a few colleagues from our Corporate Technology Group on a project. They were impressed with my thesis research and there was an opening in the group for an Electrical Engineer. I was asked to join the group and accepted. The next three years were a time of (mostly) significant expansion for the company. I traveled to all of the company’s facilities in North America (at the time) and several in Brazil. I provided modelling and optimization of the EAFs power and control systems and had the opportunity to model, analyze and optimize over 20 EAFs. This was an incredible opportunity that provided me with exposure to and priceless experience with nearly every type, size and variant of EAF in operation. I traveled extensively during this three year period and in excess of 100% much of the time which means that I was gone multiple weeks at a time without returning home. I was even gone for a full month at one time. I enjoy travel, but this was too much.

My Master’s Thesis utilized a combination of Matlab and ruby based software. Ruby was utilized to parse and filter large sets of measurements files. Matlab was then used to generate models from the condensed data set. I can’t say enough good things about the ruby programming language. I have used it extensively.

While working as the Plant Electrical Engineer in Wilton Iowa my focus was mainly development and integration of automation. I utilized the ruby programming language extensively for integration, developing an Allen Bradley PLC5 communication driver, distributed ruby data server (drb) and multiple client applications. I also developed multiple process models utilizing neural networks, fuzzy inference and other non-linear modeling techniques. One particularly notable project was the design of a burner control system utilizing fuzzy inference with heat stage classification and arc stability in order to minimize the consumption of natural gas and Carbon.

My “formal” Software Engineering experience was gained while working as part of the Air Traffic Management group for Lockheed Martin in Eagan Minnesota. I worked on the Micro En-Route Automated Radar Tracking System (MEARTS) and was given the challenge of developing a terminal emulator for the controller’s display. Our development group was composed of approximately 40 Engineers and our process was certified at CMM level 4. My development work was accomplished on a Linux PC that I maintained. MEARTS was a C language application with a main compile target of the awesome Solaris OS.

Deployed In Turkey 1993
Deployed In Turkey 1993

I’m proud to have served in the US Air Force between 07/1992 – 11/1996. I was an F-16 Avionics Technician and also spent several months maintaining the F-4 Phantom. I was stationed at Spangdahlem AB Germany and Luke AFB Az.

Education:
University of Iowa – MS Electrical Engineering 2006. Master’s Thesis Topic – “Identification, Simulation and Optimization of an Electric Arc Furnace Melting Process”

University of Minnesota – Pursued an MS in Software Engineering from 08/2002-06/2003 until accepting the Plant Electrical Engineer position in Wilton Iowa and relocating.

Northern Illinois University – BS Electrical Engineering 2001.

Hobbies:
I have played guitar since high school. After a long hiatus I finally bought a new guitar and amplifier and have been playing consistently. I’m not sure if I sound as good as I did when I was younger, but I feel like my playing is much more mature and technically competent.

I built my first PC and installed Red Hat Linux in 1996. I was an Electrical Engineering student at the time and so didn’t know much about administrating a UNIX type OS. I spent a lot of time reading man pages and everything I could find about UNIX. I have used UNIX / Linux continuously in some form since that time. I’m a Linux enthusiast and assume that I will use it in one way or another for the rest of my life. I have used Debian on my desktop PC since 1999.

I have had the opportunity to develop software professionally at various times in my career. I enjoy software development and consider it to be a hobby. I feel like I am always looking for a problem to apply software to solving. My preference is to develop using the ruby programming language but I’m also fluent with perl, java, c, c++, bash and assembly.

I really enjoy international travel and have been very fortunate in having opportunities to travel internationally for work. I was stationed in Germany for 3 years while serving in the US Air Force and delpoyed to Incirlik AB Turkey and Decimomannu AB Italy twice.

I’m not as much of a sports fan as I once was, but I really enjoy rugby. After playing for a few seasons on a local team I grew to appreciate the sport.

I enjoy exercise and try to lift weights at least 3 times / week, eat properly, sleep properly, etc.