The images of a profession (Day 27)

The images of a profession (Day 27)

23rd June 2014

Woodside petroleum’s Pluto LNG plant (Copyright Woodside Energy Ltd)

Chemical engineers work in some of the most image-conscious organisations where reputations are hard-won and easily lost. In all likelihood you'll have a team of people somewhere carefully monitoring social media, news outlets, what your customers are saying and what the future holds in terms of legislation, trends and policy changes.

It's also fair to assume that chemical engineers don't always have the best of images. For one, people generally don't know what we do. And when they do, it's often associated with negative images and disasters. Often these images and events are ingrained into the public consciousness like Piper Alpha or Bhopal.

Later in the year, I plan to blog and hopefully debate the image of our profession and what we can do to improve it. In this blog I'm going to concentrate on what people perceive when they see some of the images of our profession.

For instance, when the general public looks at a chemical plant do they see a marvel of construction or an environmental disaster waiting to happen?

Do they see a wind turbine as a blot on the landscape, or a way to combat climate change?

Is a vaccine considered a saviour for their child's long-term health, or a calculated risk with potential side-effects and worse?

Is a pesticide a way to ensure adequate food for everyone, or a danger to nature?

The point is we work in industries with greatly confused images, rational or otherwise. It sometimes feels like a bad relationship - 'can't live with them, can't live without them'.

If you are a regular reader of tce magazine you'll know they run a regular section called 'snapshot', which features some amazing photographs of the chemical and process industries.

Courtesy of tce I've shared a few with you in this blog. Personally, I believe they are amazing pictures, but I challenge you to view them through a non-professional eye. Are some of these images really wonders of industry and man's ingenuity, or viewed less favourably by the general population? Should we do more to explain what they do and the benefits they bring?

Enjoy the photos and share your views. Send in your photos too illustrating why chemical engineering matters.

World’s largest concentrated solar power plant, Abu Dhabi (Copyright Shams Power Company)
Exxon Mobil’s largest refining and petrochemical plant Jurong, Singapore (Copyright Exxon Mobil)
Chemical engineers working for the European Space Agency have developed a new engine for spacecraft (Copyright ESA)
Shell’s Norway Ormen Lange gas field (Copyright Shell)
Woodside petroleum’s Pluto LNG plant (Copyright Woodside Energy Ltd)