I caught up with Emerson’s Tim Olsen, Chair of the AIChE Fuels and Petrochemicals Division (F&PD), to get an update of the work of this division. For those unfamiliar with this group, the AIChE’s F&PD:
…was established to further the application of chemical engineering principles in the fields of fuels and petrochemicals. The division provides a forum for information exchange and coordination of activities with those of other societies in the field. The division also coordinates activities through its own Ethylene Producers Subcommittee. Each year, the Fuels and Petrochemicals Division sponsors some 350 papers in nearly 70 technical sessions at AIChE meetings, relating to the production, refining, utilization, and conversion of liquid, solid, and gaseous fuels.
We have covered in many posts the impact of increasingly available shale gas in North America and other parts of the world. I asked Tim how this impacted the direction and focus of the F&PD. Tim shared with me that the US has had a very mild winter that lowered demand for heating fuels. With the increase in natural gas production from the shale gas deposits, natural gas prices have dropped to a 10-year low.
The concern from the producing side of the industry is natural gas prices dropping further from the current $2 per 1,000 cubic feet. Also, there is an issue with storing the natural gas as storage capacity is rapidly filling up. Another mild winter would have a detrimental impact to natural gas production in the short term. On the demand side, the industry is looking at other options for use with the abundant, inexpensive natural gas.
At last year’s 2011 AIChE Spring Meeting, both Dr. F. Emil Jacobs from ExxonMobil and Sam Thomas from Chart Industries spoke on the future uses of natural gas. Natural gas is an important and current topic for discussion and is reflected in the F&PD programming. The Fuels & Petrochemicals Division has two main programming tracks, Topical 6 on Gas Utilization (12th year) and Topical 7 on Refinery Processing (15th year).
Dr. Jacobs keynote address was titled, “The Energy Challenge: Providing Sustainable Supplies to Meet Growing Demand” and Sam Thomas’ presentation was titled, “What Are We Going to Do with All This Natural Gas? – Ramifications of the Dramatic Expansion of Natural Gas Available to the Market Due to North American Shale Gas Production and LNG Liquefaction”.
The 2012 Spring Meeting took place the past week in Houston, Texas and will again have the proceedings available for purchase. I asked Tim what other items that he and the F&PD officers would address in 2012. Here’s a brief recap:
- Scholarship committee – F&PD provides scholarships for both college and high school students.
- Analyze membership committee – Better understand younger professional needs and try to attract additional 25-35-year-old Chemical Engineers.
- Communications and promotions committee – Better communicate that the Spring meeting is focused on industry-related issues and concerns with great presentations. The Annual meeting in the fall has a more academic focus.
- Analyze budget and funds allocation committee – Review funding to ensure the efficient use of membership dues.
- Review F&PD Officers manual committee – It has been four years since the last review of the officers manual, so it is time to review and update it once again.
- Awards committee – Nominate and determine award winners.
If you are a Chemical Engineer and in the business of fuels or petrochemicals, this may be an organization you want to join.