GPA vacation students contribute to sustainable futures one-step at a time!

GPA vacation students contribute to sustainable futures one-step at a time!

During the completion of the detailed design for HyP SA Hydrogen Production and Injection Facility a team of GPA undergraduate engineers undertook a project to design equipment access infrastructure within the hydrogen production and injection plant.

The team completed the detailed design for pipe supports, bollards and step over platforms, which were required throughout the plant. Adding extra complexity to the project, the team were required to create the infrastructure with a focus on sustainability and opted to create the structures using a composite material of recycled plastics and wood fibre.

Investigation into suitable materials and suppliers was conducted in order to find a product that could be manufactured to meet the requirements of AS 1657. The selected material was sourced locally from Advanced Plastics Recycling (APR) using their extruded structural products.

The pipe supports, bollards and step over platforms were the first facility infrastructure which GPA had designed using recycled plastics, setting an example for how waste can be diverted from landfill. Working with a new material presented challenges, such as defining structural requirements and understanding material limitations.

Across the plant more than 3,000 kg of plastic was diverted from landfill, not only reducing waste, but also reducing the quantity of virgin steel and concrete required on the project. Along with the environmental benefits, the material costs were reduced which was an unexpected but pleasant surprise.

Ensuring materials segregated for recycling find a reuse stream requires innovative thinking. This initiative was a great way for GPA’s vacation students to develop their team working and problem solving capabilities on a real-world design problem.

Now installed on site, the pipe supports, bollards and step over platforms have received great feedback from industry with several companies enquiring to utilise recycled plastics for similar infrastructure within their own industrial sites.

We are proud of our undergraduate team for leading the way with this innovative approach to materials selection and believe they have built a solid foundation to allow GPA to utilise recycled plastics in future projects.

Meet the Vocational Student Team


Emily Spencer
Trainee Mechanical Engineer
I was involved in the design, analysis and procurement of step over platforms to improve accessibility on site at HyP SA. My role involved managing the project, ensuring compliance to applicable Australian design standards and stress analysis using engineering calculations.
Over the course of the project, the team was engaged with a range of engineering activities from which I learnt valuable lessons. By working with Advanced Plastics Recycling (APR) I gained experience in liaison with external clients, using communication skills to achieve positive outcomes for both parties. The opportunity to manage a project was highly insightful, providing hands-on experience in scheduling, budgeting and progress tracking. The design challenges associated with repurposing recycled plastic taught me how to approach engineering problems creatively and how to incorporate sustainability within a project.
Ben Allan
Trainee Mechanical Engineer, now GPA Graduate Mechanical Engineer
As part of the step over project, I completed design work, stress analysis, structural calculations and navigated compliance with relevant Australian Standards.
The project helped me to develop team work and communication skills, including vendor interaction. As a team, we had to think from a manufacturing standpoint, rather than just a structural standpoint. As the cost of labour far outweighed material costs, the design was optimised for simplicity of construction, rather than material reduction. The resulting structure is stronger than necessary, however the lead time and cost of production per unit is minimised.
Having developed the design from the conceptual stage right through to fruition, it was very satisfying to walk across something that 6 months ago was a preliminary sketch on a whiteboard!
Stefan Capoccia
Trainee Mechanical Engineer
I completed CAD modelling, stress analysis, design and associated assembly drawings.
Working in a group within a professional environment enabled me to develop my communication skills and enhance my ability to use CAD programs via the modelling and analysis of the step over platform.
Talib Rahman
Trainee Mechanical Engineer
I contributed to the detailed design of the step over, refining the design through collaboration with a range of stakeholders. I also lead project close-out, which included meeting with the manufacturer to gain feedback.
Working in a small team gave us all an opportunity to gain first-hand experience of each aspect of a project. My main take-away was from the design stage, as working with a range of stakeholders was an involved process that required iteration to produce a final design that satisfied all requirements but was quite different to the first concept.
Paul Lawson
Trainee Mechanical Engineer
I designed two additional WPC step over platforms and completed CAD modelling of the access platform.
When I started my placement at GPA, the client was so pleased by the design the previous students had produced that they asked for some additional designs to be implemented in the facility. I inherited a lot of the work from the previous team and was able to produce two additional designs – one 800mm longer, and one 200mm taller while slightly reducing the materials requirements of the design.
It was a huge learning experience as I was given a lot of freedom to solve this problem. I inherited a lot of resources from the previous team and was encouraged to work with a number of people to best determine how to produce a design that would not only fit the client’s requirements but also remain consistent with Australian Standards.

The vacation student engineering team and the step over they designed

Students visited the HyP SA site and were given a tour of the facility by GPA Lead Mechanical Engineer, Huw Dent