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A Chemical Engineer’s Happy Career in Aluminum – Interview with Russell Hewertson, Air Products

While at the ALUMINIUM USA trade show in Detroit, Michigan, in November 2015, Light Metal Age had the opportunity to interview a number of notable members of the aluminum industry.

The seventh interview in the series — conducted by Ann Marie Fellom, publisher — presents Russell Hewertson, Americas commercial technology manager for Air Products & Chemicals. Air Products sells industrial gases to the aluminum industry. Russell is a chemical engineer that got hired at Air Products in 1989. He was introduced to the aluminum industry during the company’s career development program and loved it so much he’s been working in the applications area of the aluminum industry for Air Products ever since.

For the aluminum industry, Air Products supplies oxygen, nitrogen, and argon. Oxygen is for oxygen assisted melting in casthouses for rolling mills, for example. Nitrogen and argon are for aluminum degassing and nitrogen alone is for improving the extrusion process and for annealing. And the company is constantly developing new technologies.

Typical projects in aluminum involve the evaluation of a current and desired operation, technical and commercial proposal generation, followed by in plant demonstration and ongoing support—solving problems, working with economics, and working with people to improve their bottom line. Air Products has many customers in the aluminum area that they’ve worked with since the late 1980s going through four generations of technology improving their performance each time.

Russell describes in detail the importance of partnering with aluminum extruders to supply nitrogen and how it is used most effectively. This can provide benefits to productivity and a boost to surface finish of the extrusions. Trials can be set up trials at customers for 6-8 weeks to demonstrate the benefits of utilizing their industrial gases in the most effective ways.

The job itself is varied and Russell believes young people would find his kind of work very interesting. He said that you get to see so many operations — no two alike — and meet so many people, and you’re always learning!

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