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Smarter, greener steelmaking: Three new studies to be funded by Swansea-based research programme

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Three research projects that could help the steel industry become smarter and greener have been given the go-ahead as part of a national steel research programme led by Swansea University.

The projects will explore new electronic monitoring systems that work in ultra-high temperatures, and two potential methods for reducing further the carbon emissions produced during steelmaking.

The work will be funded by the SUSTAIN programme, a £35 million research network led by Swansea University with the universities of Sheffield and Warwick. Its aim is to transform the UK steel sector into a carbon neutral, zero waste, digitally agile industry that is responsive to the fast-changing needs of customers.

SUSTAIN involves more than twenty partners across the UK steel industry: primary manufacturers, supply chain, trade bodies, academic experts and research organisations.

Earlier this year the SUSTAIN team launched their first call for feasibility study projects, open to steel experts across the UK. The three projects – outlined below – are the first to be selected for funding.

Steel is central to clean renewable energy – the tower and many other components of a wind turbine are made of steel (Image: Swansea University)

Dr Cameron Pleydell-Pearce, steel expert at Swansea University and SUSTAIN’s deputy director, said: “Research and innovation are the bedrock of a modern steel industry. SUSTAIN brings together almost the whole UK steel sector, with researchers and companies collaborating on an unprecedented scale.

“We are already on the road to clean, green and smart steelmaking, but these three studies have the potential to take us further and faster. We are pleased to be able to support them as part of the SUSTAIN programme and we look forward to seeing how they develop over the coming months.”

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Ultra-High Temperature Reliable Electronics Development (UHTRED): Dr Alton Horsfall and Dr Andrew Gallant, University of Durham said: “In the steel industry, operating temperatures above 400 °C are commonplace and monitoring materials and systems in these conditions is essential. However, semiconductor-based transistors are unsuitable for use in extreme temperature environments.

“This study will explore the use of materials, designs and circuit models based around microscale vacuum channel transistors. The target is to produce device and circuit designs which are capable of operating over a wide temperature range, from 25 to 1000 °C.”

Techno-economic Feasibility of Net-Zero Emission Solutions for Metal Heating (THERMOS): Dr Yukun Hu, University College London said: “This study will focus on the metal heating process and the proposed sustainable net-zero emission solutions, which involve hydrogen gas. The project will investigate if the UK could introduce carbon-free heating for furnaces at all its rolling mills.

“A furnace ‘digital twin’ will be used to demonstrate the proposed net-zero emission solutions. This will analyse combustion behaviours and scale formation, using computational fluid dynamics and reaction kinetics models. The work will provide new insights into the transition pathway of reheating furnaces that might be systemic weaknesses in a green steel economy.”

Drop-tube Furnace to Investigate Novel Reductants for the Decarbonisation of Ironmaking: Dr Julian Steer, Cardiff University said: “This project will test the feasibility of using a non-recyclable carbonaceous waste (Subcoal®) as an alternative reductant material for potential injection in a blast furnace. It involves Cardiff and Swansea Universities, TATA Steel UK and N+P Recycling”

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Subcoal®, is a non-recyclable paper and plastics product which is high in carbon. The aim is to compare Subcoal as a non-fossil fuel alternative to coal-based reductants. If successful, this will reduce the reliance on mined coal; reduce the landfilling of non-recyclable paper and plastic; and significantly improve the UK steel industry’s carbon emissions footprint as 50% of the Subcoal® carbon is derived from biomass.

Lead image: Port Talbot Steelworks (Chris Shaw / Geograph)

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Coronavirus

Health chief urges people to follow Welsh Gov COVID guidance – and supports action against businesses that don’t

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woman wearing face mask

Director of Public Health for Swansea Bay University Health Board, Dr Keith Reid has issued a statement urging people to follow the Welsh Government’s guidance on staying safe through the pandemic – and supports action against businesses that refuse to do so.

The warning comes as news of the new Omicron COVID variant starting to spread in the UK, coronavirus infection rates continuing to be high in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot, and enforcement action taken by Swansea Council and the Welsh Government against independent cinema Cinema& Co who have refused to follow COVID safety measures.

Dr Keith Reid

Dr Reid said: “We are now seeing the emergence of the new Omicron variant with the accompanying uncertainty.  This makes it more important than ever for us all to act in a responsible way that protects our local communities and the vulnerable people within them, and the NHS.

“Although we all want the pandemic to end, Covid is undeniably still with us. Many families across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot have already experienced – or are currently living through – the anguish of loved ones being seriously ill or having died with this virus.  Others, of all ages, are suffering long-lasting impact on their own health following Covid infection.

“In the last two weeks alone in Swansea Bay 10 people have died in our hospitals with Covid. Today, we have 35 Covid-positive patients in our hospital beds and five are seriously ill in intensive care.

“Since the pandemic began, our staff have witnessed almost 1,000 patient deaths with Covid, and that figure does not include people who died outside of our hospitals. That is not only a tragedy for the families involved, but it has exacted a heavy physical and mental toll on our NHS staff, who are exhausted and yet still carrying on as best they can.”

Dr Reid added: “For businesses the rules are quite clear and there is a statutory duty of care towards customers and clients who might use business premises and also for staff.

“I support enforcement action taken against any business that deliberately flouts the current regulations.

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“These regulations are not made lightly. They are put in place to protect the public and workers. They also allow business to continue to operate, but as safely as possible.

“The regulations are based on Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advice that a number of different ‘low cost’ interventions all have a part to play in reducing risk, and that together these actions mitigate against the risk of tougher measures needing to be reintroduced later.

“Included in the regulations is the need, for example, for premises to be properly risk-assessed so important safety issues like ventilation, social distancing, etc, can be considered and managed. Covid passes or negative lateral flow tests have another part to play in reducing the risk of further infections, particularly in premises regarded as higher risk. The passes are not the full answer, but they have a part to play.

Support and guidance on how businesses can implement reasonable control measures is available from the local authority, and is outlined in detail by the Welsh Government.

Meanwhile, I continue to urge everyone to carry on taking sensible everyday actions to protect their own health, and those of others:

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  • Make sure you have had your Covid vaccinations.
  • Self-isolate and get tested if you have any Covid symptoms, or symptoms which are unusual for you.
  • Wear a face-covering where you need to.
  • Open windows and doors to let the fresh air in when you meet up with others.
  • Avoid stuffy, crowded places – get together outdoors if you can.
  • Wash your hands frequently.”
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Art

Sandfields Library receives new lease of life with mural artwork

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A new mural has been unveiled at the recently re-opened Sandfields Library, with the aim of welcoming the local community back to the building following the COVID-19 shutdown.

The artwork was painted by a local teacher and funded by J.G. Hale Construction as part of the community benefits associated with Tai Tarian’s nearby County Flats scheme – a state-of-the-art project to build 55 new homes, and refurbish 72 existing flats, in Sandfields, Aberavon.

The mural’s artist, Adam John, teaches art at the nearby comprehensive school, Ysgol Bae Baglan. John completed the mural volunteering in his spare time, after school and on weekends, over a total of 30 hours.

The idea for the mural was suggested to the County Flats scheme developer – social housing provider, Tai Tarian – by library staff. It covers one external wall of the library and showcases some of the activities and services available within the building.

The spectacular artwork depicts a meadow scene and a portrayal of the Aberavon seafront, with a rainbow over it to represent the heroic commitment of the NHS throughout the pandemic. The wildflowers and butterflies painted in the mural represent a wider initiative between Tai Tarian, local councillor, Sean Pursey, and Buglife Cymru, around transforming open spaces with wildflowers.

The picture also includes three sheep, which represent the innovative use of Welsh Sheep’s wool being utilised to insulate the properties in the Sandfields development.

The County Flats scheme will eventually provide 127 carbon-neutral homes, delivered across three phases, over three years – with phase one nearing completion. It will achieve carbon neutrality via a range of in-house green and sustainable initiatives.

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Most notable of these is the use of natural, eco-friendly forms of insulation made from three unusual and innovative materials: welsh sheep’s wool, locally sourced from Neath-based Crynant Farm; mycelium, the vegetative filament root structure of mushrooms; and a wood-fibre insulation developed in-house at SO Modular.

The pioneering insulation methods are providing a pilot study for the viability of their use in the wider construction industry.

David Harrhy, managing director of J.G. Hale Construction, said: “We are delighted to have been able to fund this mural as part of the County Flats development’s community benefits in collaboration with Tai Tarian. The painting really brightens the area up and should be a welcoming sight to those returning to the library following the coronavirus shutdown.”

Adam John, Art Teacher at Ysgol Bae Baglan who painted the mural, said: “The opportunity to create a mural in the heart of the estate was difficult to turn down. Having taught in the community for nearly 20 years, I knew I had to say yes.

“I always feel proud that I can inspire our children to be more creative, and I knew it would be well received. Our pupils love seeing artwork and truly appreciate skills which go into an outcome. I’ve painted many sets over the years, which are always enjoyed by our pupils and visitors, but they are replaced every year, so it was great to leave my efforts on a wall for many years to come. The mural allowed me to give something back to the community; a little reminder to current and ex-pupils that they too can make a difference in their own community.”

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Rebecca Thomas, Tai Tarian’s Social and Economic Regeneration Manager said: “At Tai Tarian, we pride ourselves on being part of the community and with our major re-development of the County Flats site getting underway, we were keen to do something that would leave a lasting legacy for the people of Sandfields.

“Our partners, J.G. Hale Construction, shared this vision and were keen to get involved, working with the library and Adam John to create the mural as part of our community benefits programme.

“Libraries play an important part in communities, giving people access to all sorts of valuable resources and if the mural helps attract more visitors to the facility, then we will be pleased to have played a part in this.”

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Coronavirus

Community pharmacists boost the Covid booster vaccine campaign

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The drive to deliver Covid booster vaccines across Swansea Bay as rapidly as possible has itself been boosted by community pharmacies.

All 49 GP practices in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot joined the health board to deliver the first two doses of the vaccine.

But as they are now busy delivering flu vaccines on top of their usual services, community pharmacies have stepped up to help ensure the booster is available locally as well as in the main vaccination centres.

Their involvement follows a successful pilot earlier this year which saw four of them help deliver the first two doses.

Thirteen in the Swansea area, along with Vale of Neath Pharmacy in Glynneath, have now responded to the health board’s call for expressions of interest to take part in the booster programme.

One of the first to receive their booster in a pharmacy was Nigel Godfrey (pictured above), who lives near the Vale of Neath Pharmacy.

“It was fantastic,” said Mr Godfrey. “I was working from home so I could pop down to the pharmacy on my lunch break.

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“It was local, five minutes away. A lot more convenient than having to go to one of the mass vaccination centres.

“There was no waiting, I was in and out within five minutes.

“The pharmacist put me at ease and we went into a private room. There were no problems whatsoever.”

Mr Godfrey, aged 44, is entitled to the booster because of an underlying medical condition.

“But it will also protect my friends, family and colleagues, whoever I come into contact with,” he added.

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“It’s doing the right thing, not just for myself, but also those around me and the community.”

People eligible for the booster will be contacted directly with an appointment either in one of the pharmacies or in a health board vaccination centre.

Appointments are being sent out in chronological order, at least six months after the date people received their second dose.

Six months is the threshold at which those in priority groups become eligible for the booster, not an absolute date it must be given by.

Although there are no drop-in sessions, the health board has started a reserve list for people who are aged 40 or over, who had their second dose at least six months ago.

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They must also be available to attend one of the mass vaccination centres at short notice – within two hours.

As well as the MVCs, the health board employs local vaccination centres, converted shipping containers which can be taken into communities to save people who might otherwise struggle to get to an MVC.

With the pharmacies also on board, every effort is being made to ensure as many of those who are eligible for a booster can receive it as close to their home as possible.

“However, we appreciate that will not be the same for everyone,” said Swansea Bay’s Vaccine Equity Manager, Maxine Evans.

“We send invites to people living within a certain radius of the pharmacies to begin with and, if we have slots still available, we go further out.

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“We are flexible and if people cannot get to the pharmacies because they live too far away and do not have transport, they can phone the booking office to change the appointment.

“But when we have been to the pharmacies and spoken to patients, they were really grateful and happy with the fact that it was local and easy for them to get the booster there.”

Pharmacists too say they are happy to be involved with the booster programme.

Niki Watts of Vale of Neath Pharmacy said: “We decided to take part because we believe it’s important to help the health board get the population fully vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“We are located at the heart of the community so the patients find it easy to access.

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“We have good facilities, including a nice big car park right outside so the patients don’t have to walk very far, and our own dedicated consultation rooms where the vaccinations can take place in private.”

Eligibility for booster vaccines is determined nationally. It includes all adults aged 40 and over; frontline health and social care workers; people aged 16-49 with underlying health conditions putting them at higher risk of Covid-19; adult carers; and adult household contacts, aged 16 and over of anyone who is immunosuppressed.

Top of the eligibility list are people living in residential care homes for older adults. Swansea Bay has concluded its first sweep of 70 homes in the health board area – delivering more than 1,200 boosters to residents.

For various reasons, some were unable to receive the booster when the vaccinators were present, so return visits to each of the homes are now being arranged.

Georgina Assadi, health board Covid vaccine programme assistant service manager, said many of the vaccination team had not worked in the community before.

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“It was all new to them and some were a little anxious to begin with. But they all really enjoyed it because they knew they were providing protection to the most vulnerable people,” she added.

Lead image: Nigel Godfrey is given his booster by Niki Watts of Vale of Neath Pharmacy (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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