Chemical engineering (and other) highlights of 2014 (Day 223)

Chemical engineering (and other) highlights of 2014 (Day 223)

5th January 2015

Once the dust has settled after the merriment and celebration of welcoming in the New Year, it's only natural to reflect on the year that has passed. 2014 was a great year for me, full of new experiences and meeting new people, which obviously includes a lot of chemical engineers, through my role as IChemE president.

So, on reflection, I'd like to share with you my personal and professional chemical engineering highlights of 2014.

1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Synthesis Report

The issue of climate change has been top of my agenda for some time, and communicating across the seriousness and urgency needed by our global society to mitigate the effects has been a personal mission of mine.

So, you can imagine my delight when the IPCC published their Synthesis Report.

After all, 'It's not just the polar bears at risk'. The report dismissed the conspiracy that climate change isn't happening, it is real and we need to do something about it, and fast!

The latest talks and negotiations at the United Nations (UN) climate change conference in Lima, Peru, last December have been reported as somewhat disappointing.

So it will be interesting to see what will happen later this year in Paris at the next UN climate change conference, where a global and formal agreement will be reached.

National leaders need to see climate change as a top priority and become more involved with the process to ensure a successful outcome. I certainly hope that this will be the case in Paris.

2. Meeting chemical engineers from all around the globe

Earlier in 2014, on 28 May, I delivered my presidential address and subsequently started my term in office.

Needless to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of being IChemE president, particularly meeting chemical engineers from different countries around the world and recognising their achievements.

Engineers Australia’s immediate-past president Dr Marlene Kanga, was awarded IChemE Honorary Fellowship in October 2014.

No matter where they are, I have found that all chemical engineers have a sense of pride and passion in their work.

We are all part of a global community who share the same message - that chemical engineering matters!

I very much look forward to my remaining time as president for an institution that represents such an innovative, yet dependable, profession. Not only has being president been a highlight of 2014, it has also been one of the highlights of my career.

3. Real progression in Carbon Capture and Storage projects worldwide

Copyright: Capture Power, White Rose model illustration

As professor of energy engineering at Imperial, one of my research interests is carbon capture and storage (CCS).

There are currently 22 large-scale CCS projects either in operation or under construction worldwide. Real progress is being made, slowly but surely.

In July 2014, the first large scale CCS project in the UK was awarded funding by the European Commission. This news was obviously enthusiastically welcomed by myself and it's great to know that investment into CCS is happening in my own back yard.

The NER 300 funding programme announced that the White Rose project in North Yorkshire, would receive £237 million (€300 million) of EU investment.

The planned site next to the Drax site would be able to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by the 426 MW power plant new build.

And even more great news happened in October 2014, when the world's first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage plant started operations in Canada. It certainly was 'one small step for CCS; one giant leap for the Earth'.

The SaskPower Boundary Dam Integrated CCS project involves a 110 MW coal-fired power station in Estevan, Saskatchewan where one million tonnes of CO2 will be captured per year, reducing the unit's carbon emissions by 90 per cent. Additionally, the CCS unit is also designed to reduce SO2 emissions by an impressive 100 per cent.

Here's hoping that there will be more investment into reducing carbon emissions and more large scale CCS projects coming online in 2015.

4. IChemE signing a formal collaboration with the South African Institution of Chemical Engineers (SAIChE)

IChemE past president, Judith Hackitt, and SAIChE president, Dr. Ralph Grob signing formal collaboration

At the end of July 2014, IChemE signed a formal collaboration with SAIChE.

This meant that chemical and process engineers in South Africa would be eligible for dual membership and member benefits from both organisations.

This was a particular highlight for me as it represents 'a growing global family' for IChemE and our profession.

Later this month, I will have the great honour of visiting South Africa and SAIChE to strengthen the link between our organisations.

The visit will also give me a chance to meet South African chemical engineers and I very much look forward to engaging with them in conversation, particularly on topic of IChemE's technical strategy, Chemical Engineering Matters

5. A growing commitment to diversity

It has to be said that there are diversity issues within science and engineering. The most obvious issue that comes to mind is the gender balance, with only one in twenty women working in science, engineering and technology.

But the good news is that the diversity issue has been recognised and governments, organisations and institutions like ours are pro-actively doing something about it.

Diversity within STEM subjects is heading in the right direction with employers also recognising the need for a more diverse workforce.

It is also encouraging to see that other initiatives and campaigns have been set up to encourage more younger people, and particularly girls, into science and engineering such as Tomorrow's Engineers Week and the Big Bang Fair events here in the UK.


So there you have it, those were just some of my highlights of 2014. I'd be interested to find out what yours are, contact me via the blog and let me know.