Sustainable and digital projects win big at IChemE Malaysia Awards 2021

Sustainable and digital projects win big at IChemE Malaysia Awards 2021

1st October 2021

Sustainable and digital innovations won top awards at the Institution of Chemical Engineers’ (IChemE) Malaysia Awards 2021 virtual ceremony on 1 October.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah won the Sustainability Award for developing an integrated Membrane Distillation and Osmotic Membrane Distillation (MD-OMD) system using hydrophobic nanofiber membranes to produce clean water and energy simultaneously by utilizing seawater and solar energy. This pilot plant has enabled electricity production and up to 18,512 litres of water per day to around 20 of the 500 residents and 25 staff in a small rural resort.

This patented world-first system of integrated MD-OMD for desalination allows safe, clean drinking water without the need to depend on arguably more expensive freshwater and alternative energy resources outside of the village, especially during seasons of drought, to solve clean water issues and electricity shortages in rural coastal regions.

Meanwhile, the Young Researcher Award went to Chartered Engineer and sustainability enthusiast How Bing Shen of Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus. He has developed many novel innovations and collaborated in various projects including evaluating the feasibility of a hydrogen production plant project, strategically determining optimal fertilizer formulation for a palm oil plantation, and contributing to Sarawak’s state-wide green economy roadmap.

His novel statistical optimisation tool to optimise the performance of waste-oil re-refinery plant Pentas Flora Sdn Bhd saw product yield improved by 55% and quality by 21%, with a 3.42% and 90.89% reduction in global warming potential and acidification potential.

He has had more than 50 articles published, 10 of which were within the first half of this year. His research excellence saw him appointed as Associate Editor, Sustainable Chemical Process Design of Frontiers in Sustainability.

PETRONAS Penapisan (Terengganu)’s visual gas sampling points (VGSP) invention saw them awarded the Oil and Gas Award. The simple stainless-steel sight glass has been designed to show mist or liquid droplets collecting while in the sampling loop, indicating the flushing process must continue until the glass is dry.

At a low production cost of RM300, VGSP has reduced resampling by 75%, reduced the exposure risk to hazardous chemicals, and saved the company more than RM40,000 in repair and workforce costs. Plus, it contributes towards a greener environment by reducing the scheduled waste disposal of nitrile gloves by 50%, lowering incineration requirements and releasing toxic chemicals into the air and soil.

University of Nottingham Malaysia was victorious in the Student Chapter category. Through an impressive range of mentoring activities, technical skills-focused workshops and careers events with industry leaders in various sectors such as biogas generation, wastewater management and solar energy, they are boosting their connections with industry and supporting the career development of their members.

Their unique and creative community outreach activities included a project of virtual workshops to improve English-speaking skills among 7–13-year-old students from local schools and refugee centres, and a contest where students pitched zero-waste solutions, with four winning teams offered research grants up to RM20,000 to commercialise their ideas with Green Lagoon Technology.

Other leading organisations in Malaysia were celebrated for excellence in chemical engineering and for utilising digitalisation into their programmes and processes.

PETRONAS Digital won the Training and Development Award for its training programme to upskill employees with analytics techniques, shifting to machine learning for a more dynamic and impactful way of harnessing and reporting on data. This has also allowed them to develop models to help solve business-specific pain points and increase day-to-day task efficiency.

A successful pilot training scheme across four of its downstream plants in November 2019 helped solve unique plant process issues with an estimated RM7m of process improvements. Therefore, it was scaled up to PETRONAS group-wide and so far, almost 2,500 employees have enrolled on the programme, with more than 280 operationalised in Power BI dashboards and around 112 machine learning projects that generate an estimated potential value creation of RM120m.

The Process Safety Award was won by chemical fertilizer manufacturer ASEAN Bintulu Fertilizer for their digital classification system, which has enabled 12,141 safety critical assets to be managed more effectively and efficiently for maintenance and inspection and reduces the risk of major hazards occurring through the bypassing of incorrect safety critical assets.

Law Chung Lim, Chair of IChemE’s Malaysian Board, said:

“Many congratulations to all the IChemE Malaysia Award winners! Your efforts in upskilling your workforce with new digital techniques and systems, supporting your local community and developing unique innovations to improve production and provide solutions to local issues in a safe and sustainable way, are remarkable.

“Our awards recognise the highest standards within the chemical engineering community and I would like to thank you for all you do to contribute to our learned society and the advancement of chemical engineering’s contribution for society’s benefit.”

New for this year, all finalists of the IChemE Malaysia Awards had the opportunity to record a short video to share how they felt to be a finalist, as well as explain more about their project and how it is positively contributing to solutions to the Malaysian community. Videos of the winners were shown during the virtual ceremony. 

You can watch all the finalists’ videos on IChemE’s YouTube channel at

Winners of the IChemE Malaysia Awards will automatically be entered into corresponding categories at the IChemE Global Awards, which will be delivered through a series of webinars from 5–15 October. Winners of the Global Awards are eligible for the overall award, Outstanding Achievement in Chemical and Process Engineering.

For more information on the IChemE Malaysia Awards visit

Official winners of the IChemE Malaysia Awards 2021

Oil and Gas Award

Winner: PETRONAS Penapisan (Terengganu) - Visual Gas Sampling Points (VGSP) Eliminates Liquid in Sampling Bombs

Highly commended: PETRONAS Research - Integrated Sand Management

Summary of winning entry:

The presence of liquid in gas sampling bombs will damage gas chromatographs, leading to higher resampling frequency as lab technician rejects these samples.

Using various analysis and deduction methods, the PETRONAS team created the VGSP which allows them to reduce the resampling frequency from four per month to one per month. Subsequently, it helps reduce exposure time of operators to hazardous chemicals and save the environment by reducing scheduled waste generation. Opportunity savings of an estimated RM 9.1 million is expected with VGSP.

VGSP is a simple stainless-steel sight glass which can be easily replicated and customised to apply in various industries.

Process Safety Award

Winner: ASEAN Bintulu Fertilizer - Safety Critical Elements Tags

Highly commended: PETRONAS Penapisan (Terengganu) - Digitalising and Gamifying Process Safety

Summary of winning entry:

Safety critical elements (SCE) are part of installation and its structure, plant equipment, and systems which the failure could contribute significantly to the release of major accident hazards (MAHs). SCEs provide the barrier to prevent or limit the effect of MAHs. Bypassing the wrong SCEs potentially leads to process safety incidents that can have serious impacts on people, environment, asset and reputation. Technicians took an average of 15 minutes to find the correct SCE on site. By installing SCE tags, personnel can distinguish between SCE and non-SCE installations. This has reduced the risk of bypassing incorrect SCEs.

Student Chapter Award

Winner: University of Nottingham Malaysia

Highly commended: Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus

Summary of winning entry:

Being able to be part of the IChemE Student Chapter under IChemE Malaysia has been such an amazing experience in University of Nottingham Malaysia’s university life. The past term has been momentous due to an exemplary success in the Student Chapter team’s goals – connect, passion, values. This is evident via the exposure the team has given by organizing talks and visits from leading bodies. The exciting line-up of events (including corporate social responsibility activities) and collaborations with organizations and institutes have opened doors and expanded career opportunities for members. Having organized more than 30 activities successfully in the past term with just a small team, University of Nottingham Malaysia’s Student Chapter team is very proud of its achievements today and aspires to soar higher to achieve our goals in the upcoming term.

Sustainability Award

Winner: Universiti Malaysia Sabah - Water and Energy Production Using Membrane Distillation and Osmotic Membrane Distillation (MD-OMD)

Highly commended: Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) - Trigeneration and Industrial Energy Exchange Across Multiple Sites (TRIGENSITE)

Summary of winning entry:

Integrated membrane distillation and osmotic membrane distillation (MD-OMD) system is a novel technology that can produce drinking water and energy simultaneously using the sustainable and abundant resources of seawater and solar energy. Evaluation on the performance of the integrated MD–OMD plant shows that the seawater inlet flow rates range from 200–30,000 litres per day  and can correspondingly produce 123–18,512 litres per day of water and 0.04–5.64 kW of gross power. Within this range of plant capacity, the integrated MD–OMD plant is an energy self-sufficient system. The net power generation by this plant corresponds to 98% of the gross power production.

Training and Development Award

Winner: PETRONAS Digital - Citizen Analytics: Enabling Analytics Capabilities

Highly commended: PETRONAS Penapisan (Terengganu) - Incident Investigation Methodology and Presentation

Summary of winning entry:

PETRONAS Digital believes data is the new oil and its people are the biggest asset in PETRONAS. Citizen Analytics brings the power of data analytics to everyone, helping to accelerate the pace of PETRONAS becoming a truly data-driven organisation.

Through this programme, staff with the domain knowledge will be able to apply the relevant skills, supported by the appropriate tools and applications, to address business challenges and discover insights from the corresponding data.

With Citizen Analytics, the team believes that they can retool human capital and unlock potentials of PETRONAS’ greatest asset (its people) which will bring significant value to the industry.

Young Researcher Award

Winner: Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus - How Bing Shen

Highly commended: Monash University Malaysia - Dr Ng Boon Junn

Summary of winning entry:

Dr How Bing Shen, who graduated from University of Nottingham Malaysia, has joined Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak (SUTS) as a Lecturer since 2019. Despite being an early career researcher, Dr How demonstrates strong publication track records. He has had more than 50 articles published – 10 of which were published in 2021. In terms of grant applications, Dr How has managed to secure a total research funding of MYR 374,400 from both state and national grants. Given his research excellence, he has won multiple researcher awards in SUTS, and has been appointed as the associate editor of an international journal.


Winners of the IChemE Malaysia Awards 2021


IChemE Malaysia Awards


For more information please contact:

Lucy Cook, Communications Manager, IChemE
t: +44 (0) 1788 534454

Rachael Fraser, Communications Executive, IChemE
t: +44 (0) 1788 534435

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