In this blog, IChemE Fellow Martin Currie talks about how a systems approach and collaboration beyond the water treatment community has taken the water climate discussion to COP26.Continue reading GUEST BLOG: Water and climate change #COP26
In Singapore resource is quite constrained, so with this in mind Jacobs Engineering and the Singapore Public Utilities Board developed an ingenious idea by creating a membrane bioreactor to recover wastewater, reclaiming this vital resource for future use.
Winning the IChemE Global Awards 2019 in the Water Award category, their project Tuas Nexus and Tuas WRP, managed to combine the elements of wastewater and fully recover this back into drinking-grade water. Not only that, the project has managed to simultaneously implement a circular economy by creating an energy recovery process, all-in-all providing a sustainable outcome.
Here are Chew Chee Keong and Colin Newbury talking about the project in more detail:
Have you been working on an impressive water project you’d like to shout about? Then why not enter the IChemE Global Awards 2020.
Entries are now open until 26 June 2020. Visit: www.icheme.org/awards
This video was produced by CMA Video.
In our latest ‘Influencing policy’ blog, IChemE Energy Centre member Tekena Fubara explains the complexities behind transitioning to robust, sustainable energy systems in order to meet international carbon reduction targets.
Also, we explore the role of advanced oxidation processes for sustainable water management, which could be used as evidence to inform policy-makers working on a new Environment Bill.
The University of Malaya and Berqat Mechanic Engineering won the IChemE Global Awards 2018 in the Water Award category for their project – Self-Cleaning Ultrafiltration System Producing Clean Water.
Together they have transformed the lives of people living in rural villages who haven’t had access to clean water for many years. They have designed an automated, self-cleaning, mobile ultrafiltration system, which has been installed in remote villages in Malaysia to produce clean water from various sources without the use of chemicals.
Find out more about their project in this video.
The theme this year for World Water Day is ‘Leave no one behind’, working to the Sustainable Development Goal of achieving universal access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2030. Playing a key role in this mission are chemical engineers from both academia and industry; who are working on water projects around the world.
In today’s blog we take a trip down memory lane, and reflect on some great examples of members who have used their chemical engineering skills to help people in developing countries access clean water.
All over the world today people will be celebrating World Water Day and reflecting on the current issues facing the world with regards to water scarcity, pollution, flooding and droughts. 2018 is also the Year of Engineering, and it’s clear that engineers will be integral to helping tackle these issues to ensure access to water is safe and sustainable in the years to come.
Chemical engineers working in the water sector are making a huge difference already. In today’s blog, our new Water Special Interest Group Chair, Dr Martin Currie talks about his vibrant water career – working all over the world, and using his engineering prowess to help make a difference in the developing world.
This month’s Year of Engineering theme is ‘Routes into Engineering’ – we hope Martin’s account inspires you to consider a career as a chemical engineer in the water industry.
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:
It’s also been great to see United Utilities engaging with the local community around this project. They have invested £48,000 in community parks, centres, and education, and visited several schools around the Davyhulme plant to get them excited about engineering.
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.
How have chemical engineers advanced wastewater management? #WorldWaterDay
It’s World Water Day and to celebrate Chris Short, Chair of our Water Special Interest Group has given his thoughts on this year’s theme – ‘Wastewater’. We have members working all over the world in this area, as well as researchers looking at new and innovative ways to treat wastewater to help benefit society.
Check out Chris’ thoughts below, and don’t forget to comment with your own views on the subject.
Name: Chris Short
Job: Consultant and Chartered Chemical Engineer
Company: Chris Short Water Quality (previously Yorkshire Water)
Special Interest Group: Water, Chair
I’m not going to claim that chemical engineers were behind all the advances in wastewater management in the past century, greatly improving public health and the environment within industrialised countries.
However, chemical engineers have been increasingly involved in wastewater treatment over the last 100 years.
Whether applied to industrial processes, human, or animal wastes, their skills are ideally suited to add value in this area.
Thanks for joining us for round two of our blog series, celebrating the very worthy winners of the IChemE Global Awards 2016. With help from our friends at Morgan Sindall we have produced a video for every category, and each one includes a special interview with the winners.
Yesterday we looked at some life-changing products, and the theme remains the same in today’s post. However today’s products have a little something extra – they have been specially designed to help tackle a problem in low-middle income countries.
This goes to show that chemical engineering really does matter, and that the work of chemical engineers doesn’t just make our lives easier – it is solving some of the world’s biggest poverty issues.
Enjoy the three videos below, and stay tuned the rest of the week when we reveal even more winning projects.
To help you stay up-to-date with the latest achievements from the chemical engineering research community here is our monthly installment with some of the latest stories.
Here are five stories of amazing chemical engineering research and innovation:
Making dirty water drinkable
Engineers from Washington University in St. Louis have found a way to use graphene oxide sheets to transform dirty water into drinking water. “We hope that for countries where there is ample sunlight, such as India, you’ll be able to take some dirty water, evaporate it using our material, and collect fresh water,” said Srikanth Singamaneni, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science.
The new approach combines bacteria-produced cellulose and graphene oxide to form a bi-layered biofoam. “The properties of this foam material that we synthesized has characteristics that enhances solar energy harvesting. Thus, it is more effective in cleaning up water,” said Pratim Biswas, the Lucy and Stanley Lopata Professor and chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering.
On 24 May 2016 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Professor Jonathan Seville was inaugurated as IChemE President for 2016-17. The Executive Dean of Engineering at University of Surrey delivered his Presidential Address on the subject of relevance. Jonathan challenged us all to think: how will the Institution and the profession stay relevant in a world that is rapidly changing?
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.
This is exciting stuff.
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
Since ChemEng365, our new ChemEng blog has become a little quiet – except for a last minute hurrah from Geoff Maitland, see his guest blog ‘Five of our Past President’s favourite ChemEng365 blogs‘.
The ChemEng365 campaign concluded at the end of May when Geoff’s term as president ended. But of course, all the amazing chemical engineering research and innovation still goes on. So, it seems only fitting to give you a research round-up on all things chemical and process engineering for the month of June – just in case you missed anything!
Injectable hydrogel could help wounds heal more quickly
A team of chemical engineers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), US, have a developed a material that creates an instant, superior scaffold that allows new tissue to latch on and grow within the cavities formed between linked spheres of gel.
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.
Excellent chemical engineering can transform businesses.
A project that highlights their novel way of thinking involved working with Severn Trent to upgrade their Strensham water treatment works in Worcestershire, UK. Severn Trent, a leading utility company, had set challenging efficiency targets.
They asked Costain help them with the refurbishment of 21 rapid gravity filters.
However, all this needed to be done without disrupting the water supply to 350,000 customers. And they wanted the project completed in less than 88 weeks, which is pretty demanding for the water industry.
Tonight at 20:30, all over the world, individuals, companies, government organisations, and possibly even Her Majesty the Queen, will switch off their lights.
162 countries and territories worldwide now take part in Earth Hour.
You can get involved and help to raise awareness about climate change by switching off your lights at 20:30 local time for one hour. You can share your thoughts on the climate change challenge on Twitter using #YourPower.
I recently came across the story of one country, Costa Rica, whose citizens are prepared to go much further in the battle against climate change. Since the beginning of the year, Costa Rica has avoided the use of fossil fuels altogether.
The Costa Rican government recently issued a press release announcing that during the first quarter of 2015, they relied on renewables for 100 per cent of their power generation.
Sustainable water research is big news in South Africa especially for the wine industry.
The South African wine industry is the 9th largest wine producer in the world, with over 100,000 hectares of land dedicated to vineyards.
South Africa is committed to sustainable wine growing and recognises the problems of cultivating the majority of its wine in a biodiversity hotspot: the Cape Floral Kingdom.
So the introduction of the integrity and sustainability seal for wine, launched in 2010, certifies that the wine in question has been made in a manner that is respectful to nature, and guarantees sustainable wine production.
To make their wines sustainable, producers are taking responsibility by dedicating land for conservation, removing foreign plants and restoring wetlands and rivers. But there have been particular issues in many regions, for example in the Witwatersrand Basin there are reports of soil being highly acidic and contamination of water resources.
Day 300 and counting. It’s a nice round number so I thought I’d talk about something a little bit different.
We often assume that engineering is something unique to humankind. However, if you take a closer look at the animal kingdom, you soon realise that this is not the case.
Some animals have been exploiting chemical engineering principles for so long, we are now taking inspiration from them; see my blogs on ’Deep sea printers’ or ‘‘Hand-made’ pills inspired by a starfish‘.
The classic example of an animal engineer is the beaver, behaving like a civil engineer and building dams. This made me curious to find animals that act like chemical engineers and here are my ten favourite examples:
Today is UN World Water Day – a day for water and for sustainable development.
This year, World Water Day focuses on the following ideas: water is health; water is nature; water is urbanisation; water is industry; water is energy; water is food; and water is equality. But I want to add something to this list: water is chemical engineering.
The importance of water is often overlooked. Water is not only essential for life but it is of key importance in chemical engineering too.
It’s all too easy to take clean water for granted; so many of us in the developed world can simply turn on a tap to get drinkable water – even if we just want to wash the car.
But the reality can be much grimmer in some parts of the world, as I discuss in my blog ‘Everyone should have a human right to water‘.
More than 70 per cent of illnesses in developing countries worldwide are related to water contamination, with women and children suffering most of all. In India, for instance, nearly 38 million people suffer from water-borne diseases, and up to 1.5 million children die from diarrhoea.
Facts like these make this award-winning breakthrough by chemical engineers from Nigeria and Germany incredibly important.
The team from Redeemer’s University, Nigeria and the University of Potsdam and the Max Planck Institute in Germany, won the Dhirubhai Ambani Award for Outstanding Chemical Engineering Innovation for Resource-Poor People (which included US $10,000 cash prize funded by Reliance Industries) at the 2014 IChemE Global Awards.
This particular award recognises the use of chemical engineering technology to support people living on less than $2 a day. And the team did just that by developing a new hybrid clay adsorbent (HYCA), based on kaolinite clay and Carica papaya seeds, which removes heavy metal ion and organic pollutants from water.
One of the major challenges we face today is reducing our energy and water consumption whilst maintaining necessary levels of production.
Part of this challenge requires a change in the way we think about these resources. It’s a mistake to consider energy and water in isolation. We need to make sure everyone is looking at the bigger picture.
Chemical engineering is a broad church and I feel that the reason why the discipline can be applied in so many different settings is our ability to think about systems as a whole – not just focusing on the end goal.
This type of thinking, systems engineering, is key to the advancement of the ‘nexus approach’ (which I have discussed before; ‘Water versus energy – which is more precious?’ and ‘Food for thought on the water-energy-food nexus’) and helping us think of water, energy and food as interlinked.
Today’s story caught my eye because it’s a good example of forward-thinking by chemical engineers. Researchers from the Bioelectrochemistry group at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) Department of Chemical Engineering, have been working to produce, rather than consume, energy during waste water processing.
A shocking one-third of the food produced for human consumption – over a billion tonnes – is wasted every year – the United Nations tells us.
So you can imagine my delight when I learnt about the ground-breaking system developed by Global Water Engineering (GWE). Their system turns leftover cassava pulp into green energy using advanced anaerobic technology – and it does much more besides.
This certainly is another triumph for chemical engineering, and so it’s only fitting that GWE’s innovation earned them the IChemE Global Award for Energy back in November 2014.
In 2013, IChemE took a glance into the future and highlighted how many desalination plants there might be in the UK by 2050.
Desalination plants are rare in relatively wet countries like the UK, but fairly common in Southern Europe and the Middle East.
More recently countries such as Australia has invested in desalination plants to solve some of their drought problems, with around eight facilities either built, in progress or planned since 2006.
Worldwide, there are around 13,000 desalination plants in operation or under construction in 150 countries.
By 2050, DesalData predict that the number of desalination plants across the world will more than double with a further 18,500 desalination plants becoming operational.
When universities establish a new research centre it’s worth taking note.
Not just because it’s a way to further our knowledge, but, in the case of the University of Bath’s new Water Innovation and Research Centre (WIRC), it reflects the fact there are growing and significant challenges ahead.
The issues go well beyond the obvious of providing clean water for everyone – although with a growing population this will be hard enough.
The challenges include a completely fresh approach to using water more efficiently – whether it’s the treatment of our waste, use by industry, processing of our food or consumption at home.
WIRC has been established to provide a unique environment for conducting research into water technologies and resource management.
It’s a collaboration between the University of Bath and Wessex Water and has ambitions to contribute to future water policy and the development of innovative and integrated sustainable water treatment systems. Continue reading A new focus on water (Day 234)
One of the greatest skills of chemical engineers is their ability to innovate. But I am constantly amazed at all the new ideas and processes that are being developed.
This project succeeded in restoring the required design capacity to an important works which was suffering from process problems and reduced output.
They managed to do this while reducing the construction period from 30 to 10 months and achieved major cost savings.
The design and construction of the works included the latest thinking on rapid gravity filter process design and using pre-fabricated modular stainless steel units.
If you’re a fan of the Olympics, and swimming in particular, you’ll be familiar with the size of the pool (50 m x 25 m). But have you ever wondered how much water it holds and how long it might take for one person to drink it?
Depending on depth, the pool will hold between 1.25 million litres of water (1 m depth) to 2.5 million litres of water (2 m depth). And if you assume we all drink between 2-4 litres of water each day, that would take over 3,400 years for one person to consume.
In fact, many of us will consume all the water in the smaller size swimming pool in just one year. It’s all due to the amount of ‘hidden water’ we consume in our food.
These numbers may be hard to believe but here’s a few examples of how easy it is to build up your water footprint based on three main meals a day – even without dessert!
Breakfast – 1,260 litres
It’s a modern-day story, but it draws on technologies, in part, developed in the 1920’s by Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch.
A German company called Sunfire have recently demonstrated a process they call Power-to-Liquids (PtL). It’s a three-stage process that uses renewable electricity to convert water and CO2 to high-purity alternative energy fuels such as petrol, diesel and kerosene.
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?
IChemE has promoted the concept of the water-energy-food nexus since 2012. I blogged on the topic back in September.
The global challenges presented by the increasing demands for water, energy and food are inextricably linked.
Climate change brings additional pressures. Identifying and implementing solutions for sustainable development requires a systems thinking approach.
The nexus challenge sits at the centre of IChemE’s technical collaboration with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).
In November 2014, Chevron Oronite president and IChemE past president, Dr Des King, gave a presentation on the nexus at AIChE’s research conference in San Francisco. His thinking outlined the complex challenge of population growth, urbanisation and the expanding ‘middle class’ in developing economies; all of which are driving up demand.