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Passionate about engineeringBetween the office, the construction site and the authorities, Heidi Bernhardt works in a male domain: She designed the Radeland compressor station

It’s inspection day at the Radeland compressor station, and Heidi Bernhardt is standing in front of a gas turbine with a sound-absorbing hood. “This is the centerpiece of the facility,” says the process technician, beaming and pointing to the machine, which weighs 100 tonnes. When the station begins operating commercially in October, three turbines of this type will compress Siberian gas for further transport. The amount is the equivalent of around a third of all gas used in Germany in a year Bernhardt and her four-man team created the compressor station in Baruth, Brandenburg, from a blank sheet of paper and the planning application down to each individual pipe. As the only woman among men, the engineer is used to attention.&nb
However, this does not bother her. In fact, anyone who sees Bernhardt at the construction site soon notices that she is in her element. According to Bernhardt, the challenge in plant engineering lies in getting all the various technical areas together on time. Teamwork is particularly important: “You don't need to know everything, but you need to have people who know what they’re doing.” Living between the office, the construction site and the authorities does have its problems. “You need to be passionate about your work,” says Bernhardt. At the very beginning, the struggle to find a suitable site and obtain planning permission delayed the project by six months. “This was valuable time which had to be made up elsewhere,” says Bernhardt. Once the initial outline was drawn up for the project, another three years passed before construction began in March 2010. The switch from working with plastic models to computer design systems was particularly tricky.

There were some grumbles during training sessions where construction workers were taught how to use the 3D software. “However, the concept worked and everythingis going according to plan,” Bernhard. Bernhardt cannot imagine life without the excitement of plant engineering. She has therefore swapped roles with her husband, who looks after the housework and their two children. This allows her to spend entire days on the construction site, overseeing the crucial installation phases which last many weeks. “For me, being able to commute to work is progress,” she says. During previous projects in Poland, Chemnitz, Mittelplate, and Ludwigshafen, there were long periods where she could only come home at weekends. 

Bernhardt got her passion for engineering from her father. “He used to rave on about how you can do anything as an engineer – and he was right,”Bernhardt laughs. She is now trying to inspire her own children. Her 11-year-old daughter took part in this year’s Wintershall Girls’ Day and came back excited, having had the opportunity to put out a fire herself. It seems there could soon be some new female additions to the team – from within its own ranks.

WINGAS - Official Website