Reaching a consensus on how to reduce the environmental impact of human activity is challenging, but the desire to bring about change is gathering momentum across the world, and especially in the chemical engineering community.
Today, along with many others across the globe, we’re celebrating Earth Day. The Earth Day Network leads this campaign on 22 April each year with their mission to diversify, educate and activate a worldwide environmental movement.
The world is becoming more focused on sustainability. For chemical engineers working in the water industry, sewage sludge is rapidly becoming a valuable resource that can be reused for a variety of purposes.
In the North West of England, the Davyhulme Treatment Works is one of the biggest wastewater treatment plants in the UK. It operates 24 hours a day, treating more than 30,000 litres of water a second. It also operates an integrated energy generation centre.
In 2015 the energy generation centre was turning 91,000 tonnes of sludge into 36 million Nm3 of biogas. The biogas generated 73,000 MWh of electricity per year – enough to run the entire works.
However, an opportunity arose to make the process more efficient. There was also a need to integrate a ‘biogas to grid’ solution – which would export excess energy to National Grid. This is where a collaborative team of chemical engineers were needed.
Cue United Utilities, Jacobs and Laing O’Rourke – a collaborative team that had twelve months to take energy generation at Davyhulme to the next level. Working together, they delivered a solution that uses water scrubbing at medium to high pressures to process biogas and deliver a high grade biomethane product for supply to National Grid.
The design has delivered a carbon emissions reduction of 7,400 tonnes of CO2 per year, as well as financial benefits that will keep energy costs low for customers. It also has a strong focus on operational flexibility – to manage demand of electricity, heat and green gas – with an option to produce green fuel in the future for transport.
A great deal has been achieved by the team, particularly in the timescale. According to United Utilities Pat Horne: “On 11 March we had to commission this plant within two weeks. From a chemical engineering point of view, we turned it on, it worked – from start to finish within 24 hours. To see something come from paper to reality in one day was fantastic.”
There was a triumphant whoop from the floor when we announced this project had won the Energy Award at the IChemE Global Awards in November 2017. We just managed to get them all on stage, as they were presented with the trophy by Lee Greenlees, Design Manager at Rolls-Royce, who sponsored the Energy Award.
Watch our interview with some of the team, and find out more about the works:
Join us tomorrow when the spotlight is on that favourite British bedtime drink – Horlicks!
Are you feeling inspired to apply for the IChemE Global Awards 2018? Whether you would like to enter your own project, sponsor a category, or just attend to support your fellow professionals –register your interest here.
The IChemE Global Awards 2017 were held in Birmingham, UK on Thursday 2 November, held in partnership with Johnson Matthey and Wood.
A brilliant piece of news hit our desks this morning, and chemical engineering is at it’s heart. London-based start-up Bio-Bean have teamed up with Costa and Shell, to power London buses with bio-fuel derived from coffee waste.
Bio-Bean has a number of products in it’s growing portfolio, but it is it’s B20 biodiesel that has been hitting headlines, and powering London buses from today.
Environmental impact is something that has become increasingly important for organisations and consumers in recent years. It is a topic discussed on a global scale by world leaders, and an issue of contention for many.
For some chemical engineers it has provided an opportunity for them to use their knowledge of chemical processes to create environmentally-friendly alternatives to the products we rely on daily.
In today’s blog Dr Dan Derr gives an insight into biosurfactants – which he hopes will spark a ‘renewable revolution’ in the fast-moving consumer goods industry.
Dr Daniel Derr
Project Leader, Internal Research & Development, Logos Technologies
Dan gained his PhD from Colorado State University, and went on to study bio-based jet fuels and photocatalysis at General Electric’s Global Research.
Following this, he led an integrated BioRefinery effort called the Corn to Cellulosic Migration (CCM), focusing on the migration of billions of dollars of capital deployed in today’s corn ethanol industry toward cost-effective production of greener ethanol from corn stover, switchgrass and woodchips.
Now working for Logos Technologies, Derr is currently focused on NatSurFact® – a rhamnolipid-based line of biosurfactants.
Not all chemical engineers end up on an oil rig. It’s a profession that can pull you in various directions, to various places and companies, tackling various problems. No chemical engineer is the same – that’s the beauty of it.
In a relatively short time Amrit Chandan has established himself as a serious entrepreneur. His company, Aceleron, uses fundamental chemical engineering principles to tackle very real challenges in our society. In today’s blog post Amrit tells us, in his own words, about his chemical engineering journey and why Aceleron, a business under 18 months old, has been turning heads.
Name: Dr. Amrit Chandan
PhD in Chemical Engineering (Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and their Applications)
BSc (Hons) Chemistry Class I
Co-Founder and Business Development, Aceleron
Amrit is an experienced engineer specialising in electrochemical technologies, specifically fuel cell technology. He co-founded battery reuse company, Aceleron in 2015. Aceleron seeks to provide low cost energy storage to developing regions.
Previously, he worked as a Technical Specialist in low carbon vehicles at Cenex, providing expertise and specialist knowledge for Cenex’ programmes and demonstrator trials.
Last week (Thursday 12 January), the IChemE Energy Centre welcomed participants both online and in person to discuss the outcomes of ‘COP22 – what next?’.
Hosted by Chair of the IChemE Energy Centre, Professor Stefaan Simons, at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), UK, participants first heard from Board members Dr Rachael Hall, Model Site Lead – Severn Trent Innovation Team, and Mark Apsey, Technical Services Director – Ameresco Limited, about their experience at COP22 in Marrakech.
But these winners have put sustainability at the heart of what they do. Pushing the limits to find the most environmentally-friendly way of doing things, some of them are also very young companies – and ones to watch in the future.
So please take a look at the following three winners videos, and as always thanks to Morgan Sindall for helping us to produce them.
Today we go to the big projects in chemical engineering that require strategy, innovation and teamwork. These winners are demonstrating great chemical engineering in its purest form. All of the projects below have demonstrated a key chemical engineering skill, systems thinking, and a drive for achieving the best results.
Take a look at their work below and don’t forget to leave a comment.
Last month the IChemE Global Awards 2016 were held in Manchester, UK, in one of the biggest celebrations of chemical engineering achievement worldwide. Our judges had a difficult task narrowing down 16 winners from 120 amazing finalists.
The ceremony was held at the Principal Hotel and welcomed over 400 guests from around the world to recognise and celebrate chemical engineering success stories.
For many, success doesn’t end after collecting a trophy, but marks the starting point on a journey to excellence. An IChemE Award can take you to some unexpected places, make commercialisation easier, help to develop your team or grow your portfolio. You could even get a letter from the US President.
So every day this week we’ll be dedicating special blog posts to the 2016 Award winners and their innovative, fascinating, problem-solving projects. With the fantastic support of Morgan Sindall we have produced a video for every one – enjoy!
COP22, or the 22nd Conferences of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has come to an end. Billed as the ‘COP of action’ by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, an estimated 25,000 people descended on Marrakech, Morocco to start the process of implementing the Paris Agreement.
However, COP22 had a lot to live up to, following the historic result of the Paris Agreement at the conclusion of COP21. All the countries of the world were invited to attend COP22, but only the countries who had ratified the Paris Agreement had decision- making authority.
The Marrakech 22nd Conference of Parties ran from 7-18 November 2016. It was also the 12th Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12), and the 1st Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1).
The event looked at practical solutions to implementing the Paris Agreement, with the help of chemical engineers and financial institutions. Dr Rachael Hall, from the Energy Centre Board, gave the first presentation, an overview of deployment technologies available to mitigate climate change. Rachael outlined pathways to a zero-carbon economy, as demonstrated in IChemE’s technical policy document Chemical Engineering Matters.
Mark Apsey, also a Board member of the Energy Centre, gave his presentation on the pathways for organisations to deliver energy efficiency projects. Outlining various ‘road blocks’ to implementing greener energy solutions, Mark made it clear that he felt that more needed to be done to incentivise delivery.
COP22’s interesting side-event programme was jam-packed, and this year saw an increased focus on technology solutions for and the investment required to mitigate climate change.
Mark said: “From IChemE’s perspective Chemical Engineering Matters has been created to not just cover energy, but water, food, and wellbeing – which are really trying to look at the whole system, as well as specific solutions to energy problems”.
The UNFCCC needs more chemical engineers at the table proposing feasible solutions for mitigating climate change and applying a systems thinking approach to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
COP22 was also Ban Ki-moon’s last COP conference. The Secretary-General of the United Nations until the end of the year, he spoke about the success in ratifying the Paris Agreement, which was announced just last month: “Countries have strongly supported the Agreement because they realize their own national interest is best secured by pursuing the common good. Now we have to translate words into effective policies and actions. This is critical to protect our planet, safeguard the most vulnerable and drive shared prosperity. Low-emission development and climate resilience will advance all the Sustainable Development Goals”.
An inspirational figure in the fight against climate change, Ban Ki-moon’s presence will be missed.
The aim of COP22 was to spend the conference working out a clear work plan for achieving the targets set in the Paris Agreement, however the UN has set a target of 2018 to have these plans finalised. This meant that a large proportion of COP22 was spent ‘fleshing out’ the Agreement’s fine print. This included financial support, which will have a massive impact on developing nations. Much of this year’s discussions surrounded the funding gap to research, and scale-up and implementation of the technology solutions to reduce carbon emissions.
During the CMA plenary, parties adopted the agenda and the organisation of work. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa reported that, as of 16 November 2016, 110 parties to the Convention had deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Paris Agreement, representing more than half of Convention parties (at time of writing this figure is now at 111).
Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director, UN Environment, said that the current pledges are insufficient to reach the Paris Agreement’s goals, but cited opportunities to “bend the emissions curve.” This means that we have to act now to ensure we implement climate mitigation strategies. Chemical engineers have a key role to play in solution implementation and applying systems-thinking.
During the conclusion of COP22 there was some exciting news, 47 countries from the Climate Vulnerable Forum committed to going 100% renewable as they adopted the ‘Marrakech Vision’.
Almost 200 countries gathered in Marrakech to work out the details of implementing the Paris Agreement. This deal established the overarching global goals for tackling climate change, but didn’t include the detail of how we get there. This left COP22 with a lot of complicated work to do.
Despite being billed as the COP of action, COP22 was instead the COP of discussing the next steps required to implement the Paris Agreement. However, this was a very necessary step if we are to successfully halt catastrophic climate change.
You can read the latest version of the COP22 proceedings by following this link.
If you were at COP22 please get in touch and tell us how your work is saving the planet.
Yesterday the UN’s 22nd session of the Conference of Parties (COP22) commenced in Marrakesh, Morocco. 20,000 delegates from 196 countries are expected to attend and discuss how to turn the COP21 Paris Agreement into action.
What happened at COP21?
COP21 was arguably one of the most historic meetings in terms of mitigating climate change. On 12 December 2015 the world united in an agreement to take action, and 197 countries signed the Paris Agreement which made each country take responsibility for recognising and combating climate change.
The central aim was to limit global temperature rise this century to well below 2°C over pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
And we were there too! The IChemE Energy Centre published its Climate Communique and Supporting Statement in October 2015, identfying five priority areas where technology should be deployed to help mitigate climate change:
The Paris talks concluded that 197 countries had adopted the Agreement, but the real commitment would be shown through ratification. The Agreement was opened for ratification on 22 April 2016 at the UN Headquarters in New York. Parties representing 55% of the global greenhouse gas emissions needed to be accounted for in order to make the Agreement ‘entered into force’.
The biggest emitters of CO2, including China and USA ratified at the beginning of September, causing a number of other countries to follow.
Last month the threshold was achieved, and on Friday 4 November, it was confirmed that the Paris Agreement had officially been entered into force. This means that it is now down to each country to start planning and implementing actions to reach the agreed targets.
The UK is still yet to ratify, despite the European Union making an official admission on 5 October. Currently 100 out of the 197 parties who adopted the Agreement have ratified.
What is happening at COP22?
Positioned as the ‘bridge’ between decision and action, COP22 will define the mechanism for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. This covers funding, climate change policy, and technology deployment.
The ratification of the Agreement is incredibly timely, and encourages this Conference to concentrate on the emissions targets and goal of achieving a zero carbon economy by 2050.
The idea is to spend the conference working out a clear work plan for achieving the targets, and the UN has set a target of 2018 to have this finalised. This will involve some ‘fleshing out’ of the Agreement’s fine print, including financial support which will have a massive impact on developing nations.
Not going to be there in person? The event will be live-streamed on YouTube, so head over at 11:30 – 14:00 (WET) on Monday 14 November.
We’ll also have a stand at the exhibition, to help raise the profile of chemical engineers and advocate their role in mitigating climate change. Working with the IChemE Energy Centre, we will be spreading the word about how chemical engineers will help to deploy the technologies needed to meet the global targets.
Come and visit us at our stand.
You can also follow all the action on Twitter, just search #InvestPlanet.
IChemE member and Energy Centre Future Energy Leaders Vice-Chair Matthias Schnellmann was there to participate in the discussions. Here are his thoughts:
Name: Matthias Schnellmann Education: Chemical Engineering (MEng), University of Cambridge Job Title: PhD Student, University of Cambridge Special Interest Group:Clean Energy Research interests: Low carbon energy
The IChemE Energy Centre, along with the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) organised a Low Carbon Summit at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in London on Friday 9 September 2016. It was an opportunity to consider what the COP21 and 5th Carbon Budget targets mean for the UK and how existing and future low carbon technologies will help us to meet them.
To help you stay up-to-date with the latest achievements from the chemical engineering research community here is our monthly instalment with some of the latest stories.
September’s five stories of amazing chemical engineering research and innovation are:
The Popeye effect – powered by spinach
Popeye was right; we can be powered by spinach! Researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a bio-photo-electro-chemical (BPEC) cell that produces electricity and hydrogen from water using sunlight, using a simple membrane extract from spinach leaves. The article, publish in the journal Nature Communications, demonstrates the unique combination of a man-made BPEC cell and plant membranes, which absorb sunlight and convert it into a flow of electrons highly efficiently. The team hope that this paves the way for the development of new technologies for the creation of clean fuels from renewable sources. The raw material of the device is water, and its products are electric current, hydrogen and oxygen.
Since the end of ChemEng365 our ChemEngBlog has become a little quiet. To make sure you stay up-to-date with the latest achievements from the chemical engineering research community we will be providing you with monthly updates on some of the latest stories.
So here are five stories of amazing chemical engineering research and innovation:
Seven chemical separations to change the world
David Sholl and Ryan Lively, chemical and biomolecular engineers, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, US, highlighted seven chemical separation processes that, if improved, would reap great global benefits. The list they have drawn up is not exhaustive (we are sure there are more we could add!) but includes; hydrocarbons from crude oil, uranium from seawater, alkenes from alkanes, greenhouse gases from dilute emissions, rare-earth metals from ores, benzene derivatives from each other, and trace contaminants from water.
IChemE’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are an essential way for our members to share knowledge and collaborate on initiatives, which are of significance to their sector.
Today is World Water Day, and our Water SIG is a hugely important part of providing expert advice and consultation to the innovations that could change our world. Water is essential to life, it must be sustainable or we cannot survive. Chemical engineers are an important part of making sure water provision is sufficient, clean, economical, and environmentally-friendly.
Chris Short, Chair of the IChemE Water SIG, explores in more detail the current challenges for the water sector in today’s blog post. Read on to hear his thoughts, and feel free to join the conversation on Twitter using #WorldWaterDay or by leaving a comment below:
Name: Chris Short Job: Consultant and Chartered Chemical Engineer Company: Chris Short Water Quality (previously Yorkshire Water) Special Interest Group: Water, Chairman
Today is World Water Day, and I’ll be attending a conference in Leeds, UK, on Innovations in Wastewater Treatment. The focus will be on the recovery of value from wastewater and I expect to hear how leading-edge technologies are performing and what new processes are being evaluated by researchers.
12 December 2015 will go down in history as the day the world agreed to do something about climate change. The impact of countries around the world reaching such an agreement cannot be ignored. However, for us to actually achieve the targets set in Paris we need to act now.
Chemical engineers have been working for some time to find and implement ways to combat climate change.
Here are just ten of the ways that chemical engineers can save the world from the impact of climate change:
Chemical engineering makes its professional contribution by understanding how whole systems work, and generating engineered system solutions to meet desired targets. The ideology and discussion behind climate change solutions is in place, but it needs a chemical engineering, systems thinking approach to apply the technical solutions.
2. Energy efficiency
Becoming more energy efficient is the obvious easy win (at least for chemical engineers). The 2012 Global Energy Assessment stated that 66 per cent of the energy produced today is wasted. The chemicals sector is the most energy intensive industry, but current internal rates of return stand at just 12-19 per cent. Chemical engineers can change this and make energy efficiency the number one priority
Nuclear power is already playing a vital role in decarbonising the global energy economy. Its capacity to provide base load power makes it a stable and low-carbon energy supply.
Nuclear power provides approximately 11 per cent of the world’s energy. In the UK, nuclear power generation makes up 19 per cent of the energy landscape. The proportion is much higher in France, at 75 per cent.
However, there are still significant public concerns over the safety and environmental impacts of nuclear power, and the legacy issues of waste. These concerns mean there is often very little support for new nuclear power plants.
As we move to a low carbon future nuclear, new build will have to play an even bigger part in the energy strategies of many governments, because nuclear doesn’t emit carbon dioxide during power generation.
The COP21 talks in Paris came to a turning-point on Saturday, as an update to the draft agreement was released. Finance appears to be the over-riding issue as we settle in to the second week of the conference – but what about the solutions?
Did you know that more than half of the world’s annual carbon emissions could be prevented over the next 50 years by using sustainable bioenergy?
According to research by Pacala and Socolow, outlined by the IChemE Energy Centre, 25 billion tonnes of carbon emissions can be prevented from entering the atmosphere – simply by switching from fossil-based petroleum to bioethanol as our primary transportation fuel.
So why aren’t we using it already?
The raw materials used in bioenergy production – food crops like maize and sugarcane – come with a lot of associated challenges. Food crops are by no means guaranteed; a bad season could have a detrimental effect, particularly in developing countries who rely on their crops as a means of livelihood. Concerns about the economical implications for developing countries have already been raised in Paris – and could be a deal-breaker for alternative fuels like bioenergy.
The world’s population is expected to exceed nine billion by 2050. With this growth there will be an increasing demand for energy.
As it stands, fossil fuels provide more than 85 per cent of the world’s energy. And despite significant global efforts to shift to renewable energy generation, renewable sources only accounted for 2 per cent of the global energy supply in 2014.
It is therefore logical and reasonable to believe that fossil fuels will remain an indispensable part of the world’s energy landscape until at least the end of this century.
At COP21, representatives from over 190 countries will try to reach an agreement to limit global warming to the two degrees target, and this will involve stabilising atmospheric CO2 concentrations at a level of 450 parts per million (ppm).
So what does this mean? For fossil fuels, it means we need to decarbonise electricity production; and carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a readily deployable technology solution to do this.
The first is energy efficiency, a central part of ensuring we maximise the energy we produce to reduce both waste and harmful emissions.
The need to improve energy efficiency is perhaps one of the easiest topics to get a consensus on, and it will form an imperative part of an effective agreement at the Paris climate talks over the next week.
The numbers speak for themselves. The 2012 Global Energy Assessment revealed that 66 per cent of the energy produced today is wasted. For the chemical process industries and the chemical engineering sector, the implications of this statistic are huge.
This week saw the start of the 21st Conference of Parties, COP21. More than 190 countries and 150 global leaders have gathered in Paris, France, to discuss a new global agreement on climate change.
The United Nations (UN) event will host around 40,000 people and runs right through until the end of next week (11 December).
The future of the natural world, and the animals and plant life that call it home, depends on the outcome of this conference. If we don’t limit global warming to 2 degrees, the consequences will be catastrophic.
Whilst we cannot accurately predict the scale of any potential impacts now, what we do know for certain is that climate change is happening, and we have a responsibility to reduce any further damage.
Chemical engineers are part of the solution, and the IChemE Energy Centre has identified five priority areas where technology can be deployed now to help mitigate climate change.
Day 362, four blogs to go. Four more opportunities to highlight chemical engineering in action.
In the Christian tradition, the four horsemen of the apocalypse are the harbingers of the end of the world.
Other faiths offer different views, but for the purposes of this blog post I’m taking a look at four big challenges that present a serious threat to life on earth: water scarcity; increasing energy demand; food security; and climate change. What are chemical engineers doing to tackle these issues and avert the apocalypse?
I have previously observed that we run the risk of sleep-walking towards climate catastrophe. But it’s more complicated than that. The water, energy, food and climate change challenges are interrelated.The former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, Sir John Beddington, used the term Perfect Storm to describe this phenomenon arguing that climate change will intensify pressure on resources further, adding to the vulnerability of both ecosystems and people.
Chemical engineering can provide shelter from John’s ‘Perfect storm’. Here are some examples.
We are all heavily reliant on personal computers. At home, at work and on the move. However, we have all experienced the noise and annoyance of the cooling fan in our computers when we push their processing power too hard.
The UN General Assembly designated 2015 as the International Year of Light. A global initiative to highlight the importance of light and lighting technologies to societal development.
It provides an opportunity to inspire, educate, and connect people on a global scale. It is anticipated that the International Year of Light will inspire people to think of new ideas, new solutions and new products for the future.
Which brings me rather neatly to a solar project that caught my eye recently.
Mention the word ‘spinning’ to most people, and they might be transported back to their childhood and fairy tales of princesses in towers. They might think about industrial Britain in the 19th century, and the revolution in textile manufacture. Or they might be reminded of the gym session that they look forward to and dread in equal measure every week.
But for chemical engineers, spinning – of fibres into membranes for separation – can be a doorway to a sustainable future.
Membranes offer several advantages in separation over alternatives such as distillation, sublimation or crystallisation. They permit the use both fractions (the permeate and the retentate) after separation and because no heating is involved, less energy is used.
Harnessing the energy stored in ice cold water has been highlighted as a potential solution to heat towns and cities without the use of fossil fuels – it’s a great example of chemical engineering making a difference.
We have been attracted to gold for millennia both for its beauty and its value.
Gold is considered so attractive because it does not corrode or tarnish. It’s also very ductile. These properties have led to gold being used in works of art and treasures of great historical and cultural significance.
Gold has inspired great art, but what about great chemistry and chemical engineering?
During the evening Graham shared many interesting insights into UK catalysis research. Catalysis is at the core of the UK economy and contributes over UK £50 billion annually. It is central to the wellbeing of society and is involved in some way in 80 per cent of all manufactured goods.
Graham then told me about his work with gold catalysts. With his team, he has discovered that gold has the potential to improve health, clean up the environment and save lives.