It has been 60 years since our inaugural Hazards conference took place, and although this year presented its own challenges, we were pleased to have successfully hosted #Hazards30 in a virtual format for the very first time. With an impressive line-up of plenary speakers and presentations, over 260 process safety professionals were still able to get the full experience of Hazards from the comfort of their home.Continue reading #Hazards30 – 60 years of process safety learning and lessons
COVID-19 has turned the world upside down, posing so many challenges for society.
Now it’s more important than ever for us to share good practice and process safety learnings gained so far during this unprecedented time to ensure together we maintain the safety of our businesses and our communities working within, and living by, them.Continue reading How is COVID-19 impacting process safety management? #Hazards30
Our dedicated member volunteers around the world are the life and soul of the Institution. Without their efforts we couldn’t fulfil our duties as a qualifying body or a learned society. Or truly be an organisation that is led by members, supports members and serves society.
Their efforts and activities are appreciated by the Institution all year round. And, as part of IChemE’s Strategy 2024, we are working to further improve the volunteer experience to ensure the membership remains a vibrant and thriving community. This is one of President Stephen Richardson’s top priorities, and that’s why at the end of 2019 he initiated a two-year programme to improve support for and better recognise volunteers. We are currently reviewing processes and documentation and planning how we can better align and improve them across the organisation, whilst adopting best practice. We’ll provide further updates on this in the coming months as the programme of work progresses.
As we entered 2020, no-one could have predicted the effect coronavirus would have on individuals, organisations and our health services across the world. At IChemE, we’ve been adapting our procedures so we can still maintain the same standards of services to our members, and our fellow professionals across academia and industry. A huge thank you to all of our volunteers across the world who are leading this effort.
To mark Volunteers Week in the UK (1-7 June), we’re sharing stories from just a couple of our many UK volunteers to highlight their great contributions to help IChemE adapt in this pandemic. They explain why now it’s more important than ever to maintain safe and quality practices in chemical engineering to support the wider community.
In today’s guest blog, chemical engineer David Platts tells us how he has been working to share knowledge to support chemical engineers in his region during the coronavirus outbreak.
Name: David Platts
Job title and organisation: NZ based Food Industry Consultant (semi-retired)
IChemE role: Member of the Learned Society Committee and Subject Area Lead Food
In discussions with IChemE members in my region, it was evident that although much information published globally was centred on the major economic centres, we too had interesting stories to share regarding our response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia Pacific.
Working with the country chairs in Australia and New Zealand, and fellow Learned Society Committee member Alexandra Meldrum, a series of short webinars was planned highlighting how we were navigating the myriad of the challenges brought about by pandemic.
We asked two subject specialists to join us for the first webinar on 23 March. Both presenters shared some thought-provoking content which was extremely relevant to current events, but also challenged us to carefully consider future actions post the pandemic.
Trish Kerin, Director of the IChemE Safety Centre, gave a presentation titled “Decision Making in a Crisis”. Clearly this topic was of much interest to the delegates as we are indeed in a crisis and, for many, this provides many challenges to leadership. A key aspect that I took from the talk was that good leaders need to develop a well-stocked bank account of trust with the people they are leading. This point, I suggest, is highlighted by some of the differing global leadership styles that we are witnessing in many countries.
The second presentation was by Kennie Tsui, Principal Analyst at the New Climate Commission and board member of Engineering New Zealand. Kennie talked in depth about climate change issues going forward. Kennie gave us a vision of what could happen post COVID-19 if we let the brakes off too quickly, referencing the bounce back in emissions following the global financial crisis of 2008. We have a decision to make, follow a new path that leads to meeting our goals for emissions reductions or accelerate those emissions thereby making the challenges even more difficult. A direction that we need to carefully manage – informed and well communicated decisions are critical.
We do hope that those who viewed the presentations found them valuable. If you missed the webinar it can be viewed on the IChemE Safety Centre YouTube channel here.
For the future, please keep your eye open for more webinars as we would like to expand this initiative to the wider Asia Pacific region with more varied content. If you have stories to share, please contact us via the regional members portals for New Zealand and Australia. We would love to hear from you.
For more information on how IChemE is responding to the coronavirus outbreak, please visit our Coronavirus Information Hub.
As a membership organisation that is led by members, supports members and serves society, volunteers are the lifeblood of the Institution.
Without our member volunteers, we simply couldn’t fulfil our obligations as a qualifying body or a learned society. Their enthusiasm and drive to help fellow members, the chemical engineering community and wider society is palpable.
ExxonMobil was the winner of the Process Safety category at the IChemE Global Awards 2019, for their project Delta HAZOP.
With process safety at the heart of all their decisions, ExxonMobil put in place the Delta HAZOP programme, which builds upon the original ICI HAZOP process used to design and build inherently safe facilities.
In addition, ExxonMobil also use the IChemE Loss Prevention Bulletin to understand the key learnings from horrific events such as the chemical explosion in Bhopal, India.
Watch this video to find out more about this project:
Do you have an award-worthy process safety project that you’d like to enter in the IChemE Global Awards 2020? Find out more and submit your entry by 26 June 2020 at: www.icheme.org/awards
This video was produced by CMA Video.
Chemical and process engineers are key contributors to making working environments safer.
Sharing good practice in this is vital. And so is sharing lessons that have been learned along the way.
That’s why each year we bring leading chemical and process safety experts across Australia and New Zealand together at our conference Hazards Australasia.
This year’s event at the Hilton Brisbane, Australia on 13-14 November 2019 focusses on the theme ‘competence and capability’ and the technical programme features a new panel made up of process safety experts from the regulating bodies across the two regions.
Under the title, Lessons for industry safety cases, the panellists will discuss the importance of sharing lessons from process safety incidents and how the recent Work, Health & Safety review could affect process engineers.
Ahead of this panel discussion, we caught up with some of the panellists to understand some of the challenges and opportunities to improve the safety culture in the process industry in Australasia.
Woodside Energy in Australia was the winner of the Process Safety category at the IChemE Global Awards 2018.
Improving process safety in the organisation was an important exercise for Woodside, and they successfully achieved this by implementing an intelligent research system, Watson HSEQ.
This ‘super-computer’ provides Woodside personnel with valuable process safety insights at their fingertips, and allows them to learn from past experiences more efficiently and effectively.
Watch this video to find out more about the project:
Do you have an award-worthy process safety project that you’d like to enter in the IChemE Global Awards 2019? Find out more and submit your entry by 12 July 2019 at: www.icheme.org/awards
This video was produced by CMA Video.
Every day, chemical and process engineers are working hard to reduce the huge risks that come with working in hazardous environments and share lessons learnt in regard to process safety incidents.
IChemE and its members are intrinsically involved in sharing lessons through various streams of work; the IChemE Safety Centre, the Safety and Loss Prevention Special Interest Group, and producing journals and publications such as the Loss Prevention Bulletin, to name but a few.
The annual Hazards conference is also a key date in the calendar. It brings together hundreds of process safety practitioners from around the world, so that together, they can learn from one another’s experiences to help maintain a clear focus on safer operations and support good practice.
For the first time, at this year’s Hazards 29 conference in May, a new panel discussion has been added to the technical programme to encourage a two-way discussion around some of the challenges facing process safety. The theme of the panel discussion will be: ‘How do we achieve, maintain and demonstrate competencies for process safety?’
To mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work today (28 April), panel members IChemE Safety Centre Director Trish Kerin and Dr Chris Tighe, Chemical Engineering Lecturer at Imperial College London, have shared their insights into how they think we can continue to improve safety processes around the world.
It’s 5 November, and across the UK tonight sparklers will be sparkling, and bangers will be banging. Each year fireworks displays are put on to mark the fortunately unsuccessful attempt by a group of conspirators trying to demolish the Houses of Parliament.
In today’s guest blog, Tony Fishwick explores process safety and management of fireworks as part of a special issue of the Loss Prevention Bulletin, entitled Fireworks and Explosives.
This week we have been looking back, thirty years ago to the day, to arguably the world’s biggest offshore oil disaster – Piper Alpha. The devastating incident killed 167 people. Only 61 survived and were left with serious injuries and trauma.
Our friends at The Chemical Engineer have been sharing Piper Alpha Perspectives all this week, where chemical engineers and process safety professionals from around the globe have been sharing their personal views on the tragedy. You can read them here.
In addition, our Loss Prevention Bulletin has published a special issue to mark the 30th anniversary.
The anniversary reminds us that process safety matters, it still matters, and it will continue to matter for as long as the process and hazard industries continue to exist. It matters because we all have a duty to ensure that people return from work in the same state they attended – safe.
This is why the sharing of knowledge is critical in our industry.
IChemE helps to support the sharing of knowledge through the IChemE Safety Centre (ISC), which provide resources such as interactive case studies; journals such as Process Safety and Environmental Protection (PPSE) and the Loss Prevention Bulletin; expert networks such as our Safety and Loss Prevention Special Interest Group; dedicated medals that recognise excellence in process safety, such as the Franklin Medal and the Lees Medal; relevant training courses, partnerships with international process safety centres such as the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center; and and by qualifying Professional Process Safety Engineers.
In addition to all of this, our Hazards conference – held annually in the UK and Australia and every two years in South East Asia – is our flagship event for sharing process safety knowledge.
Hazards 28 took place in May, with Hazards Australasia being brought to a close just last week. Here’s a recap of both conferences, and a sneaky peek at some of the key talks.
Each year hundreds of professionals gather to be a part of our flagship process safety conference Hazards.
Process safety is fundamental to chemical, biochemical and process engineers. IChemE’s three-day event encourages them to come together and discuss: the current best practice, the latest developments, lessons learned in the process industry, and how to make operations even safer.
The conference was first held in 1960, and is now is an annual event. Hazards brings together around 100 presenters from leading industry practitioners, researchers and regulators, as well as keynote speakers invited from industry.
As the police and safety investigations into the Grenfell Tower fire continue, media across the world has been reporting on the tragic event that saw more than 150 homes destroyed and around 80 people presumed dead.
Police have said the London tower block fire started in a fridge-freezer, and outside cladding and insulation failed safety tests.
In the early stages of the investigation and as the incident unfolded, fire safety specialist Joe Ruane, Associate Member (Process Safety) of IChemE, was interviewed to give his expert opinion.
Listen to Mr Ruane speaking to Ireland’s RTE Radio 1 news on Thursday 15 June.
Watch Mr Ruane speaking to American news network CBS at the site of the fire.
Risk will never be eliminated, but it can be greatly reduced.
Our flagship process safety conference Hazards continues to build momentum and we were pleased to welcome over 300 delegates to Hazards 27, at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, UK, last week. Various speakers, workshops and exhibitors from across the world gave excellent insight, advice and tips into the ways to review process safety practices, and useful services and products that could help improve process safety performance.
One of the most anticipated talks of the conference is the Trevor Kletz memorial lecture. Last year, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave gave some great insight into the RAF Nimrod enquiry, and how it could be applied to engineering. This year Formula 1 Analyst Mark Gallagher took to the stage, drawing parallels between risk management in the world of motorsport and the process industries.
So far we have seen some life-changing products that will make a difference all over the world, as well as chemical engineering projects designed to benefit resource-poor communities in developing countries.
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.
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.
IChemE’s flagship process safety symposium, known far and wide simply as ‘Hazards‘, goes from strength to strength. From its modest beginnings in Manchester, England in the 1960’s the event has grown into an international brand attracting delegates to conferences in Europe, Australasia and South East Asia.
Last month we welcomed over 300 delegates to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre for Hazards 26, a three-day event that featured some notable keynote speakers, who offered some powerful insights on a wide range of process safety topics.
Those who were fortunate to have a ticket for the biggest process safety event in Europe this year, went back to their day jobs armed with valuable lessons in how to improve process safety performance. But for those of you who couldn’t attend, here’s a flavour of the key messages that were delivered by the keynote speakers and some of the big names who were present in Edinburgh.
- We forget the past at our peril
Today is International Women’s Day, and to celebrate we decided to put a chemical engineering leading lady in the spotlight – Dame Judith Hackitt.
Judith Hackitt, who was IChemE’s second female president (2013-2014), has had an eventful 2016 so far. The Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), was made Dame in the New Year Honours, and has recently announced her new appointment as Chair at the EEF, the manufacturers organisation.
We sat down with her to look back on her career so far, and get her perspective on the gender debate, and the future of chemical engineering.
Thanks for joining me today Judith. You have had quite an impressive career. I’m sure you’re a bit sick of this question but what was it like to be made a Dame in the New Year’s Honours List?
Well on a day-to-day basis it doesn’t make any difference, I’m not using the title anywhere and everywhere and insisting people call me Dame Judith! I was at home on the day the letter arrived, it was first of all a big surprise but also a massive honour. It’s hard to describe but you feel like it’s something special. I really am genuinely honoured to be offered this, and it was a delight to write back and say yes, of course I’d accept.
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 name, Trevor Kletz, needs little introduction to anyone who has been involved with chemical process safety over the past forty years. Trevor died in 2013 at the age of ninety.
He is greatly missed but his impact on the chemical engineering profession was enormous and his name is rarely uttered along without the words ‘hero’ or ‘guru’ as well as ‘teacher’, ‘mentor’ or ‘friend’, in the same breath.
Trevor spent his entire career at ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries), and by the time of his retirement in 1982 he had created a safety culture within the company with a major positive impact on accident statistics.
This success was attributed to his powerful intellect on one hand, but also to his exceptional communication skills. Trevor’s ability to reduce complicated issues to simple fundamentals was the stuff of legend.
Contamination is a big danger in the food industry. For example, in the US nearly half of all food borne illnesses can be attributed to contamination.
Preventing and controlling bacterial contamination is critical to ensure the food we eat is safe.
The most common strategy to do this is through industrial washing of food in water containing chlorine. However, this is often not effective and there is a need to develop new methods to combat food contamination.
Lithium ion batteries are used in a wide range of applications and technologies. As it happens; if you are reading my blog on a smartphone, laptop or tablet, you are probably holding one right now. From mobile phones to electric cars, Li-ion batteries are all around us, but how do we make sure they are safe?
As I have remarked previously in my blog ‘Bulletproof batteries‘, there are significant safety issues associated with Li-ion batteries. In 2013, a problem with overheating batteries forced airlines to ground their Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft, after reports of batteries bursting into flames.
The use of Li-ion batteries is becoming more wide-spread. So we need to gain a better understanding of the hazards and risks associated with their use.
That’s why a research group led by chemical engineers from University College London (UCL) UK, with the European Synchrotron (ESRF), Imperial College London and the National Physical Laboratory, have been working to figure out what happens to Li-ion batteries when they overheat and explode.
As you well know, I started this blog to highlight all the good things that chemical engineers do and how we can make a positive difference.
The stimulus for me to do this came from my experience of talking to the media (see my blog on ‘Chemical engineers and the media‘) and in particular, when asked to comment on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Process safety is embedded in our profession and is considered in everything we do. Because of this we are always striving towards improvements in process design, process delivery and also in research – something we definitely need to talk more about.
Their particular focus is on metal dust explosions. Dust can present a significant hazard in mining, food processing (eg flour dust) and other industrial settings.
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?
At the end of February I attended a dinner at the Royal Society hosted by the UK Catalysis Hub. There, I discussed catalysts with IChemE fellow Professor Graham Hutchings, director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute at Cardiff University.
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.
Lithium ion batteries are used as high density power sources for a range of devices from mobile phones (see my blog ‘The next generation of ultra-fast charging batteries‘) to electric vehicles.
But the use of lithium batteries hasn’t been without some issues. For example, in 2013 Boeing was forced to ground its entire 787 Dreamliner fleet after problems were detected with the lithium ion batteries in the plane’s electrical system. The batteries reportedly burst into flames under some conditions – not a good state of affairs at 43,000 feet!
This safety issue obviously requires addressing, so researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M), US, have been working to develop an advanced type of barrier between the electrodes in a lithium-ion battery.
Engineers and chemical engineers are continually trying to improve quality of life. But sometimes, simply protecting what we have already is the most important thing – life itself.
Over the past 15 years, terrorism has made the world more cautious, with increasing amounts of money spent on intelligence and prevention. Recent events in Paris suggest how hard the challenge is.
Earlier this month, the IChemE London and South East member group hosted an event called, ‘Chemical Engineers and the Media‘, and I was fortunate enough to have been asked to sit on the panel to share my thoughts and experiences on the topic.
After the explosion of the Macondo well in April 2010, otherwise known as the Deepwater Horizon disaster, I was thrust into the media spotlight and ‘Into the lion’s den‘ as it were. So it was only natural that I retold my story at this event in more detail.
It was identified that there was a real need for a technical expert to provide an objective commentary and help explain what was happening after the disaster. I was given only ten minutes to decide whether or not I would be that person. And as you can probably guess, I said yes. Continue reading Chemical engineers and the media (Day 202)
A dark, damp, eerie cave with dripping water and furtive noises echoing through an underground chamber may seem an unusual source of inspiration for a bit of chemical engineering, but today’s blog illustrates that ideas can come from anywhere.
I’m sure you’re familiar with stalagmites and stalactites – those spiky, rocky formations that grow up from the ground and drop down from the roof of caves.
Geologists have known for a while how these form and have established mathematical models for their formation.
Interestingly, stalagmite formation is an issue in nuclear processing plants industry and researchers have used some of the knowledge from geologists to create a versatile model to predict how these stalagmite-like structures form.
The main point of the research is to is to reduce the number of potentially harmful manual inspections of nuclear waste containers.
There’s some good advice online about how to care for a child that is choking, but there are are other hidden dangers, especially from small button batteries.
It is fairly common for flat, round batteries that power toys, hearing aids, calculators, and many other devices to be swallowed.
Swallowing these batteries has severe consequences, including burns that permanently damage the oesophagus, tears in the digestive tract, and in some cases, even death.
Two projects have caught my eye recently that may give some hints about where we might build some of our power stations and processing facilities in the future.
Quite rightly, land-based power stations and industrial units are subject to careful scrutiny before planning permission is given. The fact they are so visible and close to communities means the opinions of thousands of people may need to be considered.
Even offshore facilities like fixed wind farms, visible from coastlines, bear the scars of public consultation.
But what if we generated our power or processed raw materials further out into our seas and oceans, beyond the horizon. Would that offer a new solution?
A good example of this is the IChemE Safety Centre (ISC) which sets up a new impetus and framework for process safety.
Despite the good work of chemical engineers in mitigating dangerous events, they still occur.
Often the reason given for these incidents is a lack of understanding of what process safety is and how it differs from occupational safety.
For example people often use this to explain why the BP Texas City refinery explosion and fire, which sadly killed 15 people and injured 180 more, occurred. It has been suggested that there was too great a focus on reducing the high number of occupational safety incidents, rather than the more infrequent but much more serious process safety incidents.
I have put together this list of ten differences between process and occupational (personal) safety to help dispel this (however it should be noted that this list is my opinion and there is a lot of overlap between process and occupational safety – hence the confusion!):