02 October 2015

Chemical engineering matters at APCChE 2015

Professor Dianne Wiley

Chemical engineers from around the world gathered in Melbourne, Australia, this week for the Asian Pacific Confederation of Chemical Engineering Congress (APCChE 2015). The conversation focused strongly on the impact of the profession on the world around us.

APCChE is the largest gathering of chemical engineers in the region and was held in Australia for only the second time in 22 years.  Alongside the plenary session and workshops, the event also held 350 technical and 220 poster presentations over the course of the four-day programme.

Speaker highlights included a presentation on Making Carbon Capture and Storage a Reality by economics leader for CO2CRC at UNSW Australia, professor Dianne Wiley,

Her ten-year action plan to deliver major CO2 emission reductions embraced: driving down costs with technology RD&D – especially capture and monitoring; establishing research partnerships to develop smart integrated processes, pipeline and storage networks; supporting the business case through CO2 utilisation; building global capacity and sharing lessons learned; developing technology neutral policy and regulations; and public engagement.

There was strong interest in Chatham House London’s distinguished Fellow, Paul Stevens’ presentation on Geopolitics and the Medium Term Prospects for Oil and Gas Prices.

Stevens was one of the first commentators to predict the current global oil price slump in 2012. However, he told delegates in Melbourne that the prospects for oil and gas prices over the next 5-10 years are extremely uncertain.

He went on to highlight the potential variables and uncertainties: “For example we have the Middle East falling apart, issues in Russia, and growing nationalism and China’s economic problems and internal stability.”

“There are also the threats of lurking supply crunches because of the current reduction in upstream investment in conventional oil supplies and LNG.

“You can make an argument for why they are going to go sky high, or to why they are going to collapse.

“It is very difficult to know what it is likely to do – my suspicion is both – in other words, expect very significant price volatility.”

Another engaging presentation was given by Margaret Jack FCA on China’s Next Transformation – from an Export to a Consumption Led Economy.

 Jack reflected on China’s past economic history and the current position. Her talk examined China’s spectacular growth and the implications of the shift from an investment to a consumption led society.

Covering much ground in her presentation, Jack provided an informative overview of China’s transformation in the 21st century and forecasts for the decades ahead. With Australia’s long-term future being locked-in with China, Jack’s presentation offered some reassurance to concerns over the country’s current economical strength and political stability.

Workshops at the congress covered many themes, from exploring the role of knowledge leadership in converting research into industry impact in chemical engineering, to managing gender issues in the workplace. Elsevier also provided a practical workshop on how to improve your chances on getting your research published.

An IChemE Energy Centre workshop and panel discussion looked at how chemical engineers can respond to the energy debate and their role in mitigating energy emissions. 

IChemE Energy Centre board member and principal engineer at All Energy Pty and associate professor at QUT, Gareth Forde, also presented his findings on the recent IChemE Asia Pacific regional survey.

The top three responses to the question “what should be the future energy priority for chemical engineers?” were: better resource efficiency and reduced energy consumption through advanced manufacturing; to promote step change energy efficiency improvements for existing processes; and effective and flexible energy storage and grid management.

Other major highlights were the Awards for Excellence in Chemical Engineering and the Chem-E-Car competition.

14 awards and medals were presented at the conference dinner, with the highest accolade, the Chemeca Medal, being presented to RMIT University’s Suresh K Bhargava.

This year’s Chem-E-Car competition was the largest contest of its kind staged in Australia to date.  Taking first place, ahead of 15 other student teams from Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia, was the Vermi Energizer team from the Universiti Teknology Petronas.

APCChE 2015 is the bi-annual conference for the Asian Pacific community of chemical and process engineers and industrial chemists. For the first time, the 2015 Congress incorporated the Chemeca conference. Running parallel to the Congress was the International Conference on Coal Science &Technology (ICCS&T). Each conference ran its own scientific programme with some combined plenary sessions and a combined exhibition space.

APCChE 2017 will be held next in Hong Kong on 23 August. The next Chemeca meeting will take place from 25-28 September 2016 in Adelaide, South Australia.


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