Dr Alfred Graham Raper, CBE, FREng
BSc 1954 and PhD 1958
The University of Sheffield are grateful for the support Dr Raper has left to the University in his Will would like to express their thanks to Mrs Val Raper for providing this biography.
Dr Graham Raper was Chief Executive and Deputy Chairman of Davy Corporation plc from 1984 to 1987. During the 28 years he spent within the group Davy became a major international process plant supplier serving iron and steel, petroleum, chemical, pharmaceutical and environmental industries; Graham Raper played an important part in developing the iron steel business sector whereby Davy transformed from national rolling mill builder to a leading international supplier of complete integrated iron and making plants.
Raper joined Davy in 1960 as Technical Manager of a newly formed oxygen steelmaking team led by Arthur Whiting which soon enjoyed success and contracts with BSC at Shelton and Port Talbot Steel Company Wales. Early overseas customers included Tata Steel in India and Halyvourgiki in Greece.
However, the project which lifted Davy into the premier league of integrated iron and steel design and supply was the Highveld Steel and Vanadium plant undertaken for Anglo American Corporation on a greenfield site at Witbank in South Africa.
It began when Anglo America's Development Manager, Ian Cairns, a determined Scotsman, visited Davy in Sheffield early in 1963. Ian had carried out pilot plant work on a new process to produce iron, steel and vanadium products from the Bushveld, Transvaal ore deposits: touring Europe, USA and Japan he was seeking a suitable engineering company to undertake a feasibility study for an integrated plant producing 300,000 tonnes of steel per year. On arriving in Sheffield at Davy HQ somehow, someone decided to guide Ian to Graham Raper's small office. Within minutes they were arguing forcibly about electric smelting and after 2 or 3 hours the irascible Cairns left muttering 'he's a stubborn young man'. A few months later Davy was appointed to carry out the study with Graham Raper leading the team, based in South Africa. In September 1963 Davy presented a 12 volume study confirming the project viability.
After some debate on plant capacity in December 1964 Anglo decided to build the plant proposed in the feasibility study. Following meetings between Harry Oppenheimer, Chairman of Anglo America and Sir Maurice Fiennes Davy's Chairman, Davy was appointed Project Manager of the first stage and instructed to complete the design and recommend suppliers. On New Year's Day 1965 Graham Raper arrived in Johannesburg with a full project team. Working alongside Ian Cairns and his Anglo American team Davy completed the assignment in September 1965. Immediately afterwards Davy were appointed Agents and Construction Managers. The plant was completed within budget and to the agreed programme with first iron and vanadium slag produced in April 1968, 40 months after the decision to proceed.
After start up Raper was invited to join Highveld in Witbank as Steel Plant Manager and led the plant through the initial successful operational stage. in 1970 on completion of commissioning he returned to the UK and rejoined Davy in Stockton-On-Tees. Now Evras Highveld, the plant continues to be successful with a current production of over 1M tonnes of steel products/yr together with over 30% the worlds vanadium a vital alloy in modern tool steels.
Resuming with Davy, Raper was responsible for the design and construction of many large integrated iron and steel plants often for overseas customers. These included ACOMINAS in Brazil, New Zealand Steel, Oporto Steel Portugal, ISCOR and SCAW Metals in South Africa, Surahammar in Sweden and Altos Hornos in Mexico, (AHMSA). The AHMSA project a complete steelworks development including, blast furnace, steelmaking, continued casting and rod mill was the largest order ever placed by Mexico with a British company.
Against severe German, French and Japanese competition the bidding process extended over 12 months, it was certainly exciting. After a final 24 hour negotiation a draft letter of intent agreed and initialled by AHMSA and Raper: Unfortunately on the day of signature AHMSA withdrew seeking a further price reduction. Much to the chagrin of the British embassy staff Raper refused to concede. Later, in his hotel, Raper received a call from AHMSA asking him to return as a misunderstanding had occurred and the previously agreed price was acceptable. The final outcome was a satisfied customer with a first class plant. In the UK Raper was involved in a number of large projects in South Wales and on Teesside where he led the Davy team which alongside British Steel designed the largest blast furnace built in Europe.
Raper took early retirement from Davy in 1987 due to health problems, however, after a year recuperating and rebuilding the family home in Ferndown, he became restless and formed Projecta project management consultants, working for, amongst others Kobe Steel, Highveld and Trafalgar House who had acquired Davy. Later following the acquisition of Trafalgar by Kvaerner, Raper became vice chairman of Kvaerner Davy and gave advice and assistance during the sale and design of the HYL direct reduction plant by Kvaerner to Hadeed Steel and Al jubail in Saudi Arabia.
In 1995 Raper was appointed a non executive director of Vosper Thorneycroft. Graham Raper was born in the picturesque Peak District village, Ashford in the Water, where his father Alfred was the village miller. Throughout his life Raper retained a great affection for the village to which he made regular visits, he was always pleased to see the village cricket team which he helped reform after the war, continue to flourish. Raper attended the local grammar school, Lady Manners, and later graduated with honours in chemical engineering, at the University of Sheffield. Afterwards he remained at the University as an assistant lecturer and was awarded a PhD for a thesis on turbulent combustion. He then decided on an industrial career and joined Head Wrightson in Stockton on Tees working on the design of Magnox power stations before returning to Sheffield and employment with Davy.
Dr Raper first marriage with two sons and a daughter was dissolved and he remarried Valerie Benson in 1978 they have one son. For many years Raper has been an avid golfer both at home and overseas. In 1996 he was proud to be appointed Captain of Ferndown Golf Club and even more so when his wife Val became Lady Captain the following year. He was a keen gardener and painter.
Dr Raper became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1986. He was also a Fellow of the Institute of Chemical Engineers and a past Fellow of the Institute of Metals. Dr Raper was appointed CBE in 1986.