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Elkem technical trainee program: From Raw Materials and Into the Furnace

Trainee Blog 05.07.2024

In August, when I started my trainee period in Elkem, I did not know what to expect. During my studies, and in previous summer internships, I worked with hydrometallurgical and other water or gas-based processes. Now, I am going to work with pyrometallurgy and smelting plants. 

Reducing generation of dust in Rana 

During the first outplacement at Elkem’s plant in Rana, I worked with raw materials. The plant was acquired by Elkem in 2017 and produces FeSi (ferrosilicon) in some of the largest FeSi-furnaces in the world. After arriving in Mo i Rana, it surprised me how quickly I was trusted with important tasks, and I had a steep learning curve to learn the different systems used for efficient project execution. Some tasks involved researching different raw materials, such as determining the usefulness of modifications after consulting with the local furnace team and collaborating with suppliers to assess the potential pros and cons of those modifications.  

The two main projects I worked on were both based on the same objective: “How do we generate less fines from the raw materials during transport and handling?”. Fines (or dust) from quartz can be hazardous both for humans and the environment. Coal, coke, and charcoal create dusts that can be ignitable, and if they are spread into the air a single spark could cause a dust explosion. There are of course procedures for cleaning and gathering both types of dust, but it would be better if it wasn’t generated in the first place. 

Load in of quartz with visible fines 
Load in of quartz with visible fines 

The first larger project I started to work on was a technical implementation to reduce stress from unloading trucks of raw materials onto the conveyer belts. As the project leader, my tasks were finding and coordinating with vendors, obtaining tenders, and discussing technical solutions with the internal team and other stakeholders affected by the project. Unfortunately, the project did not conclude until after I had moved on to my next rotation. 

The second project focused on reducing stress on raw materials from transportation and handling. This was a division lead project where Elkem’s plants in Rana and Bjølvefossen were picked out as case studies and testing plants. My task in this project was as a local coordinator and contact person from the Rana plant. This project was focused on how and where fines were generated to define the critical handling points which could be improved. 

Typical handling point of raw materials along Vikabandet in Mo i Rana
Typical handling point of raw materials along Vikabandet in Mo i Rana

In between these two projects, I was involved in various smaller projects and tests, such as evaluating the efficiency of sieving for removing fines and installing dust extraction hoods on transfer points between conveyers to improve the work environment for operators.  

Minimizing the environmental impact of the smelting process in Bremanger 

A trainee in Elkem quickly gets responsibility and autonomy in the various positions throughout the different rotations. After eight months in Mo i Rana, I moved to Svelgen and started my second rotation at Elkem’s Bremanger plant. Here, I am learning about and working directly with operations. It was an easy transition as the lunch conversations still included hunting, skiing, and mountains, just as in Mo i Rana! 

During my first weeks in Bremanger, I worked on a project aimed at measuring NOₓ in the furnace off-gas. The main objective of measuring NOₓ in off-gas is to later implement new methods and equipment to minimize the environmental impact of our smelting process. As I move forward, I will be more directly involved in furnace operations and will even assume full responsibility for a furnace when my local coach is on vacation. 

Competence development with internal and external courses  

In between all outplacement related work, the trainee program also focuses heavily on project management training and competence development. Most courses are related to Elkem Business System (EBS) and focus on topics like efficient problem solving, data-based decision making, and cost efficiency improvements. We also have more technical courses, such as the Si-smelting course at NTNU, and even a crash course in artificial intelligence. The combination of knowledge and experience acquired throughout the program provides us with a versatile set of tools that can be applied to almost any type of work.  

Out of office adventures  

On the way up to Omnen, another mountain top in Bremanger, looking north/northwest
On the way up to Omnen, a mountain top in Bremanger, looking north/northwest

But what about when I am not at work? In Mo i Rana, I had some bad luck with the weather during the winter and did not get to go skiing as much as I would have liked. Instead, some of my colleagues and I went climbing at a newly opened indoors climbing gym. So far in Bremanger, I have spent my weekends hiking if the weather is nice. I have also been offered the chance to go hunting in the autumn! 


The fact that I get to work on projects with high value and importance for our processes or work environment, while I am still learning is something truly special about this trainee program. I also get to prioritize learning above all else. I am looking forward to the rest of my outplacement with Elkem Bremanger, and to my third and last outplacement from January next year!