Producing liquid fuels for transportation with reduced carbon footprint has been the focus of many laboratories around the world. To succeed, this effort must utilize low cost aggregated feedstocks that can be converted efficiently to liquid fuels. Lignocellulosic biomass, has attracted much attention during the past 50 years, however, its conversion still presents many challenges stemming from its relatively high cost, broad distribution and recalcitrance to biological or chemical methods of conversion. These difficulties have prevented the widespread use of this abundant resource. On the other hand, with the cost of renewable electricity in continuous decline, an era of inexpensive electrons, (or hydrogen), is envisioned, when focus is shifted away from the supply of cheap electrons (energy) to the cost effective utilization of carbon. In such Carbon-, instead of energy-constrained world, processes that most efficiently utilize carbon will take priority over processes that emphasize optimal energy use. This vision alters dramatically the parameters of the landscape of energy research. In this talk, I will provide evidence of low cost electrons and discuss processes that have the potential to compete with fossil fuels. These processes are based on CO2 fixation by acetogenic bacteria and provide a promising scheme for the production of liquid fuels in combination with biological methods for producing lipids and hydrocarbons from volatile fatty acids.
Chemical engineering has been of immense value to mankind in the last 100 years but it needs to keep changing if it is to be of equal value to future generations. We need to recognise where its value really lies – not just as a collection of facts and a set of skills but in ways of thinking about problems. The discipline grew largely on the back of the oil and gas industry, but global concerns about sustainability have caused us to think about energy in completely different ways, in which chemical engineering needs to compete with other disciplines to maintain its relevance. Current concerns about our discipline’s over-concentration on supplying the needs of the fossil fuel industries are not new; a crisis of confidence in Europe from 2000 onwards has led to growth in activity in teaching and research which is aimed at sustainability and at “formulation engineering”. The latter is concerned with the manufacture of chemical and biochemical products that are sold by function or effect and are usually both chemically complex and physically ‘structured’. If chemical engineering is to maintain its relevance it needs strong institutions and professional organisations to grow and promote the discipline, and - crucially – to ensure that society has confidence in our professionalism, particularly in the area of safety. International collaboration between these organisations will ensure that global development priorities are met with rational and responsible solutions.
Over the next two decades the potential exists to transform the process industries through the use of large data sets, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Adoption of these emerging technologies should lead to increases in efficiencies, productivity and safety. Integrating process plant data with market data will allow improved agility, allowing companies to respond to changing market demands more rapidly, and profitably.
In the coming decades new processing facilities will be more highly instrumented than they are today. Artificial intelligence and machine learning coupled with data analytics tools will allow the development of semi-autonomous systems which will aid in plant operation. These systems will be able to provide management and operators with advice on a range of issues including system inspections, maintenance scheduling and troubleshooting. The most appropriate data will be provided to operators in the field allowing more informed decision to be made.
Presently, advances are occurring in a range of areas including improved sensors for process control, connectivity, simulation and training. At the same time that all these advances are taking place, the risk of cyber attacks through the unauthorised access into data centres and control systems will increase. The vulnerabilities of processing facilities will not only be through internet-based resources, but also through the interception of plant-based communications systems such as wifi.
This digital revolution is currently not reflected in our chemical engineering programs at either the undergraduate or graduate level. The majority of workers in the process industries are simply unprepared for taking advantage of the current advances in digital technologies. This therefore opens up significant opportunities for education and training in both the short term and the long term.
This presentation will look at the challenges and opportunities in preparing chemical engineers to work in Industry 4.0.
Today, the Asia-Pacific region is at the center of the world economy, but having this responsibility means that there will be many challenges and responsibilities for all of us. Production volume is growing in response to the continuous increase of global demand that is driving new innovations and businesses at unprecedented rates of growth that are thriving and being created almost simultaneously as new areas are discovered. Along with this remarkable economic growth and prosperity, our responsibility to the environment is also increasing; material intensity, which is the use of resources to produce products, is driving development of society with such large projections of consumption and production, that they can be considered to be unsustainable. We have to rethink some aspects of our growth and motivation.
As the result of a United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, a new set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) were formulated for 2030, which gives 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in areas of People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership. While the Asia-Pacific region has the greatest growth in the World, its material intensity is also the greatest, which means that Earth's resources are increasingly being used inefficiently without regard to their environmental or social impact. One of the most important goals of the 18th Asian Pacific Confederation of Chemical Engineering Congress is to introduce innovative methods and techniques for reducing material intensity without degrading environmental and social conditions. The critical step in achieving the SDGs is philosophy for decoupling economic growth and environmental issues. So far, chemical engineering has contributed to the society through development and implementation of innovative chemical technologies and maximizing efficiency in process systems. However, to achieve sustainability, we have to embrace a completely new philosophy to include, as paramount, the well-being of society, Earth's environment and respect for nature. We propose to call this new philosophy “Sufficiency,” which has the goal of not only lowering material intensity and increasing process efficiency, but also, at the same time and with paramount importance, improving the well-being of people, their living and working conditions and the Earth's environment.
The theme of APCChE 2019 Congress is “Chemical Engineering for Sustainable Development Goals.” APCChE is an opportunity for all of us in the Asia-Pacific region to promote ideas to achieve the SDG 17 “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.” The Congress will provide many opportunities to discuss how chemical engineering will contribute to the SDGs in the world and will be a landmark event for promoting cooperation in the region.