David Wilson (1934-2013)

The staff at ECT are today mourning the sudden passing of the inventor of the Coldry and Matmor processes, David Wilson.

We wish to express our deepest condolences to David’s children; Heather, David Jr, Anne-Marie and Michael and their respective families as they deal with their loss.

A service will be held on Tuesday 29 January, 2013 to celebrate David’s remarkable life (link to details in the Herald Sun).

David Wilson leaves a significant legacy. With the permission of his family, we’re pleased to briefly outline our view of David and pay respect to that legacy.

Coldry and Matmor Legacy

Following his retirement from Smorgon Steel (now OneSteel) in the early 1990’s, David teamed up with the Calleja brothers to explore opportunities to utilise the brown coal in their then recently acquired mine at Maddingley on the outskirts of Bacchus Marsh, north west of Melbourne.

Coming from a steel manufacturing background, David naturally explored potential synergies between lignite and the iron and steel industries.

Building upon research by Melbourne University and CRA (Conzinc RioTinto Australia) in the 1980’s into brown coal densification, David and the Calleja’s acquired some of these early patents, which at that time weren’t being commercially developed, and set about developing a process that could recover the millscale waste from the likes of Smorgon Steel’s operation here in Melbourne, utilising densified brown coal as the fuel and reductant.

David quickly realised that to reach the goal of using brown coal in any form of iron oxide reduction, he’d need to develop a commercially viable and technically scalable pelletisation and drying process. The second realisation was that, even with the ability to dry brown coal, it still wouldn’t be suitable for use in a traditional blast furnace or an electric arc furnace; he needed a new furnace that could accommodate the volatile nature of brown coal.

Not only was David a talented engineer and steelmaker, he was a gifted artist, able to draw with realistic accuracy and sculpt with flair. Photography was a particular passion, and David accumulated an impressive collection of cameras over the years.

This artistic ability, combined with engineering discipline, gave David a brilliant ability to conceptualise new ideas based on first principles in great detail, then bring them to practical application.

In the late 1990’s David had identified the basic furnace design he thought was needed to harness brown coal to reduce iron oxides. The goal was to produce something akin to sponge iron; a combination of iron, residual unreduced iron oxides and slag. Sponge iron is considered a ‘low grade’ feedstock because of the impurities and additional cost and effort required to turn it into a high grade iron or steel product. On David’s first attempt in his newly built lab-scale furnace, he produced something extraordinary; iron of such high quality, that it was almost stainless steel (sans a few alloys). That moment of invention and innovation produced something no one else to our knowledge had achieved before: lignite-based iron oxide reduction.

Working with the Calleja’s, David set about the early research and development of what would later become the Coldry and Matmor processes. By 2003 they had built a larger scale Matmor test furnace and successfully demonstrated key aspects of the Coldry process via batch scale at increasing capacities. In 2004, they commissioned the first version of the Coldry pilot plant.

With the realisation that further commercialisation and ultimate commercial deployment of both Coldry and Matmor would require significant resources, David and the Calleja’s licensed both technologies to a private company that would, in 2006, become ECT. Today, the Coldry process is moving through the process of detailed engineering and design for its first commercial-scale demonstration plant here in Victoria. Matmor, which is dependant on first proving Coldry at scale, is positioned to advance to pilot scale in coming years.

It is with a sense of pride and honour that we carry on David’s dream of developing both technologies to their full potential. In 2007, David passed the Coldry torch to Arup. In 2006, David’s long-time friend, colleague, chemical engineer and metallurgist Keith Henley-Smith joined our team as Matmor Research Manager and continues to drive its R&D today.

It cannot be understated how many lives David has touched. He will be missed by many.

David Wison – Bio

David Wilson BSc(Hons) Chem Eng, C.Eng, C.Env, FAIE, M.I.Chem.E

Date of Birth – 22nd December,1934

1954-1957

Double Honours Degree, Chemistry and Engineering, University of Birmingham

1957-1960

Research Scholar, Gas Council

Investigating high pressure gas absorption to improve the removal of sulphur compounds from towns gas, produced in high pressure ‘Lurgi’ gas generators..

Jan 1961

Research Assistant, United Steel Morwell research Laboratories

Involvement in the world’s first major 100% scrap metal fed steel mill and the development of the fourth hole fume extraction for pollution control from scrap steel melting electric arc furnaces.

Nov 1963

Environmental Control Engineer, Appleby Frodingham Iron & Steel Co.

  • First seconded to investigate a fatal accident on a 350T oxygen blown open hearth furnace (AJAX furnace).
  • Involved with all aspects of trying to clean up one of the world’s major iron & steel production facilities.

Oct 1967

Executive Engineer, Queensland State Health Department – Air Pollution Division

  • Instrumental in formulating the regulations for the new clean air act.

April 1969

Supervising Development Engineer, Queensland Alumina – Gladstone Refinery.

  • Development of the white and power areas.
  • Among other things responsible for the environmental control of the world’s largest alumina refinery.

Dec 1972

Design and Engineering Manager, Smorgon Consolidated Industries

Responsible for process design construction and installation – amongst others of:

  • Natural gas fired co – generation plant which exceeded 60% thermal efficiency.
  • Australia’s first paper machine to operate on 100% recycled waste paper.
  • A major water reclamation and recycling plant handling 7 million gallons of water per day.
  • Plastic and paper recycling plants, also involved in the abattoir, glass production and paper packaging plants.
  • Smorgon mini steel mill designed to recycle all the available scrap steel in Victoria. It now crosses State boundaries.

During this time I developed considerable expertise and a reputation for using recycled equipment. Most of the roll stands, modified and used in the state of the art 1982 steel mill were built in 1929. They are still running today.

June 1991

  • Established D Wilson & Associates P/L
  • Process Design Consultants
  • Continued to be associated with Smorgon steel
  • Formed an association with Calleja Transport Pty Ltd specialists in industrial waste transport and owners of the Madddingley brown coal mine.
  • Major contracts – operational management of Maddingley Technology; development of the Coldry and Matmor processes, the Maddingley Retort and the zinc recovery process

2005

  • Chief scientist Asia Pacific Coal & Steel Pty Ltd a wholly owned subsidiary of Environmental Clean Technologies Limited.
  • Engineering consultant to ECT

PATENTS

  • Coldry process
  • Matmor process
  • Retort (Matmor furnace)
  • Zinc Recovery

Relevant Published Papers

  • Coldry – D. Duane & D Wilson
  • Matmor – D Wilson
  • Coldry/Matmor – D Wilson

 

 

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