Consumption - driving and defining issues of the future. How should chemical engineers respond?

The concept of sustainable development defined by the UN as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” is difficult to operationalise. In much discussion over the past decade, it has been subsumed by a focus on climate change and the achievement of zero-carbon economies. This has the potential to divert attention from the central issue which is consumption.

Consumption is the driver behind the defining issues of the future: climate change, the loss of biodiversity, resource depletion and the disparity between the haves and have nots. Political sensitivity is limiting discussion and action.  

Currently, global production and consumption levels are overshooting the planet’s biocapacity by about 50% each year. In other words, we have already grown beyond ecological limits and growth as we currently measure and manage it is no longer an option on a global scale.

The conundrum then is how the defining issues identified above can be addressed without exceeding planetary boundaries even further? 

This, when raising the standard of living of the poorest members of the world’s population to an acceptable level, will necessitate growth some commentators claim will be several times higher than today.

Clearly a significant and sustainable change in the way the planet’s material resources are utilised is required and since the conversion of materials into useful products is fundamental to chemical engineering there is a prime role for the profession in addressing this issue.

This exciting webinar discussed how the sustainable chemical engineers will need to approach these challenges.

Watch the webinar recording here

Date: 16 Feb 2022 
Time: 08:30 (BST)

The biographies of our webinar panel are outlined below: 

Chris Hamlin is Vice Chair of the IChemE100 Future Content Working Party

Chris is a Fellow of the IChemE and was also elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2019. He is the co-founder and lead advisor at Hancock Hamlin, working in the fields of digital transformation, sustainability and the intersection of the two.

Prior to founding his own company, Chris worked for Emerson as the EMEA consulting business leader with global domain leadership for production optimisation and sustainability. The early part of his career comprised nearly 20 years in various roles in petrochemicals and plastics manufacturing, working for companies including ICI, Huntsman and Sabic.

Dr Mary Stewart as CEO of Energetics she is recognised globally as an expert in decision-making for sustainable development, Mary has assisted some of Australia’s largest energy users to develop climate and energy risk management strategies. She is an international expert on life cycle assessment as it applies to resources and in the development of carbon footprints and carbon neutral positions.

Mary is the BINGO (business, industry, NGO) observer on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Technology Executive Committee’s Implementation taskforce.  She previously represented the ICC on the Adaptation working group and the Standing Committee on Finance. Mary worked with the negotiators for two UNFCCC conferences of the parties (COPs) and attended COP25 in December 2019.

In 2021, Mary became President of the Energy Efficiency Council (EEC) of Australia. She is also a member of the International Energy Board of the Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE).

Mary has served on the Community Advisory Board for FlexCareers and supports her local community by sitting on the Environment Advisory Committee for the Inner West Council. In 2017, Mary won the Women’s Agenda Leadership Award for 'Emerging Leader in the Private Sector'. 

Dr. Pratima Rangarajan is the CEO of OGCI Climate Investments, a fund set up to reduce carbon emissions in the energy, industrial and transportation sectors. Before joining OGCI Climate Investments, Dr. Rangarajan was the General Manager for GE’s Onshore Wind product Line and the General Manager for GE’s Energy Storage Start up. She had previously held the role of Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President, Emerging Technology and Research at Vestas Wind Systems. Dr. Rangarajan has a PhD in chemical engineering from Princeton University and a BS in Chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Mark Apsey is Managing Director of Ameresco a renewable energy and energy efficiency company. Graduating from Exeter University in Chemical and Process Engineering he has worked as a Process Engineer for Atkins, as Technical  Engineering Manager at GSK and Technical Services Director at EnergyExcel before joining Ameresco in  2014 becoming UK MD in 2020. Mark leads the IChemE Energy Centre and led the preparation of the IChemE Position on Climate Change.

Professor Stefaan Simons graduated from the University of Surrey in 1986 followed by a PhD at UMIST. After establishing chemical engineering degree curricular at universities in Kazakhstan and Russia Simons was awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Global Research Fellowship in low carbon energy technologies which he  undertook at UCal Berkley in 2009 and the University of Melbourne in 2010.

In August 2012, Simons assumed a dual role as Director of the UCL International Energy Policy Institute and BHP Billiton Chair of Energy Policy in Adelaide.

Simons joined Brunel University in 2015 and led the College of Engineering,

Design and Physical Sciences (CEDPS) through large organisational restructure and change projects. He also established chemical engineering as a new degree discipline at the University. The Department admitted its first cohort of students in September 2019. He was appointed Vice Provost and Dean of the CEDPS in 2018.

Simons is a Director of Watt Tarriff Ltd, Gridport Ltd and ST8 Consulting Ltd. He was the founding Chairman of the IChemE Energy Centre.

Joanna Snape originally from the Philippines moved to the UK in 2011. She qualified with an  MEng Chemical Engineering from Newcastle University with a focus in her final year around Process Intensification. She completed an industrial placement at a makeup manufacturing company where she worked as a process engineer in powder and lipstick production, and designed a small scale waste-to-energy incinerator with a flue gas cleanup systems. 

Joanna has worked for E.ON since 2019 having started on the engineering graduate programme where she worked on exciting projects including CHP optimisation, the Horizon2020 project: NESOI (New Energy Solutions Optimised for Islands), and heat pump related projects. She is now an Innovation Manager within E.ON’s central innovation team, focusing on delivering innovative sustainable energy projects around Europe, in the space of energy communities and networks.