2016 Symposium Abstracts and Biographies

2016 NorCal AIChE Symposium on Environment and Biotechnology

 Friday, April 8, 2016

Symposium Description:

The morning session of the symposium will focus on the topics of Environmental Science and Engineering, and Health and Safety.  Presentation topics will include sustainability, waste treatment designs, determining appropriate means to meet compliance with existing regulations, and improving processes to minimize waste products.

Lunch includes the following AICHE Norcal Professional Excellence Awards (Click here for awardees' accomplishments):

Professional Achievement: Shariq Yosufzai, Vice President, Chevron Corporation

Continuing Education: Jerry Jones, P.E., AICHE Center for Chemical Process Safety

Plant Operations: Eco Services (Previously Solvay and Rhodia Chemical), Martinez, CA

The afternoon session of the symposium will have presentations focusing on biotechnology research and development, equipment process design, technology transfer, and manufacturing use of bioprocess technologies.

Symposium Agenda Details:

8:00 am - 8:30am          


8:30 am – 11:45am                  

Environmental Health and Safety Session


Keynote Speaker: John Wind, Renewable & Conventional Fuels & Chemicals

“Driving Sustainability at the Energy-Water-Food-Climate Nexus”

The key sustainability challenge facing humanity is how to ensure secure supplies of food, water, and energy in a changing climate. This will all occur while another 2.6 billion people are added to the earth’s population by 2050. The imperative to decarbonize our energy and transportation sectors and to conserve water across many sectors, can lead to synergistic or competing impacts. By understanding the interactions between energy, water and food/feed/fiber systems, we can make better decisions about resource allocation under increasingly tight constraints. This talk will present a framework by which one can rank “sustainability investments” by assessing the financial and environmental returns and risks of various alternatives. By utilizing technology learning curves, benchmarking and understanding fundamental engineering limits, we can estimate expected rates of improvement for decarbonization and water conservation in various processes and facility types. A few case studies demonstrate how these types of projects work in practice, and how we might accelerate adoption of best practices.


Dr. John Wind is a chemical engineer with 15 years of industrial experience, along with five years of academic research. He worked for 10+ years at Chevron Energy Technology Company, most recently doing R&D work focused on membrane technology development for natural gas, produced water, and hydrogen separations.  He specialized in greenhouse gas management, including gas flaring reduction, carbon markets, climate change adaptation, renewable energy evaluations and technology due diligence. He also managed projects on water valuation and produced water re-use.  At Air Products, John developed gas separation membrane systems and modeled cogeneration plants, and at Lyondell Petrochemical he  provided services in flare management and process efficiency.  In 2007 John was a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Environmental Science on sabbatical in Perth, Australia where he worked on a biofuels feedstock sustainability assessment in partnership with Murdoch University. He was a founding member and officer of the San Francisco Professionals chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Managers for the YMCA of West Contra Costa County. John holds PhD, MS and BS degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and Purdue University, respectively, along with a year of postdoctoral research at the University of Washington on development of advanced polymeric electronic materials (solar cells, transistors). 


Erik Desormeaux, Porifera Inc.

“Forward Osmosis: A New Tool to Minimize Waste and Reuse Water from Challenging Waste Streams”

Forward osmosis (FO) is the osmotically-driven purification of water using a semipermeable membrane. Although FO has been studied for decades, it has only recently obtained broader commercial adoption. FO has unique advantages for water reuse and desalination because it can operate reliably when processing challenging liquids that quickly clog or foul other types of membranes, such as RO.  FO membranes are a new “tool” in the water treatment toolbox that is useful for multiple applications and processes. This new technology provides unique advantages in oil and gas processing, mining, food and beverage processing, and wastewater treatment. This talk will present: 1) an introduction into FO technology, 2) examples of energy saving applications, and 3) unique environmental, health, and other benefits resulting from appropriate use of this technology. 


Mr. Desormeaux serves as Director of Process Development at Porifera’s, a startup company commercializing Forward Osmosis membrane technologies.  Before joining Porifera, he received BS and MS degrees in Environmental Engineering from Auburn University. After graduation, he worked on the design of over 20 municipal desalination and water reuse projects as an Advanced Treatment Specialist for CDM Smith, a global engineering firm. He then moved overseas to launch Consolidated Water's Asia Operations, which included constructing a seawater desalination plant in Bali, Indonesia. Lastly, Mr. Desormeaux was twice elected to the International Desalination Association Young Leaders Program Committee and was profiled in the February 2015 Global Water Desalination Report as one of the industry’s top “Desalters to Watch.” 


David Kahn, RSSI Consulting

“Unpacking OSHA’s Enforcement of RAGAGEP in Process Safety Management”

Adherence to Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices (RAGAGEP) is specifically required for the design, installation, operation, and maintenance of the mechanical integrity of process equipment under OSHA’s PSM regulation. OSHA has a history of issuing willful violation citations for failure to follow mechanical integrity guidelines in RAGAGEP literature. In a June 2015 Standard Interpretation, OSHA clarifies what literature can be considered RAGAGEP and highlights several key enforcement considerations shedding light on a once unclear topic.


David Kahn is a co-founder of RSSI Consulting, a PSM Consulting Firm based in San Francisco, CA with offices in Houston, TX and Bangkok, Thailand. Mr. Kahn earned his degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas and built a foundation of experience in process engineering, automation, and control in the Oil & Energy sector before co-founding PSM Consulting in 2010. Since then he has developed and audited process safety programs and facilitated hazard analysis across the process industries and the globe.

10:15 am to


Networking break


Curtis M. Tong, Dow Chemical Company

“Developing a Culture of Health and Safety”


Curtis Tong has held roles in Research, Engineering and Manufacturing at The Dow Chemical Company’s Pittsburg Operations site.  He has been involved in the development, design, construction, start-up and operation of mini-plant, pilot plant and world-scale chemical processes as well as plant improvement projects, primarily in the Chlor-Alkali, Chlorinated Solvents, Membrane Separation and Agricultural Chemical process technologies.  For the last 20 years, Curtis has held the role of Site Process Safety Leader.  His responsibilities include:

       • managing the hazard and risk assessment in the plants and projects at the Pittsburg site;
       • advising plant operations and projects on process safety and loss prevention issues;
       • coordinating site and plant compliance efforts for process safety management regulations such as OSHA PSM and EPA RMP;
       • developing and/or implementing process safety management best practices across the site;
       • facilitating process safety training of site personnel; and
       • representing Dow on local regulatory agency and industry groups for process safety issues.

Curtis is also a corporate Process Safety Auditor and assists CalOSHA in facility evaluations as a Voluntary Protection Program Special Team Member, participating in over 45 audits covering a variety of processing operations.  Curtis holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a licensed Professional Engineer in California.


James Russell, Chevron Corporation

“Applications of Biological Treatment of Wastewaters within the Oil and Gas Industry”

Related to the overall symposium theme of “Biotechnology and Environmental Health and Safety”, I intend to discuss how biological treatment is used as a critical component of refinery wastewater treatment.  I will provide a brief introduction to the concepts of biological treatment, how it fits in with the other technologies used to treat wastewater, the various forms that exist for biological treatment in Chevron’s refineries, and innovative biological treatment technologies.  I will also discuss the limited application of biological treatment in the upstream portion of the oil industry, why its use is limited, and where we might see more applications of biological treatment in the future. 


Jim Russell works on water issues related to the oil and gas industry.  Jim is a subject matter expert within Chevron on refinery wastewater treating and provides internal consulting to Chevron’s wholly-owned and joint-venture refineries.  He also provides water technology support to a variety of Upstream customers with an emphasis on TengizChevroil in Kazakhstan.  He has been in his current water treatment role for about 8 years; prior industry experience includes multiple process engineering roles at two different refineries.   Jim has a BS in chemical engineering from UW Madison and a MS in chemical engineering from UC Berkeley. 

11:45 pm to


Lunch, Chemical Engineering Excellence Awards, Student Awards


1:15 pm to 4:30pm          

Biotechnology Session


Keynote speaker: Jenny Mortimer, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 

“Driving the Future: Advanced Biofuels R&D at the Joint BioEnergy Institute”

Today, carbon-rich fossil fuels, primarily oil, coal and natural gas, provide 85% of the energy consumed in the United States. Fossil fuel use increases CO2 emissions, increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases and raising the risk of global warming. The high energy content of liquid hydrocarbon fuels makes them the preferred energy source for all modes of transportation. In the US alone, transportation consumes around 13.8 million barrels of oil per day and generates over 0.5 gigatons of atmospheric carbon per year. This has spurred intense research into alternative, non-fossil energy sources. The DOE-funded Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is a partnership between seven leading research institutions (Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Sandia Labs, Lawrence Livermore Lab, Pacific Northwest National Lab, UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, and the Carnegie Institute for Science) that is focused on the production of infrastructure compatible biofuels derived from non-food lignocellulosic biomass.  Biomass is a renewable resource that is potentially carbon-neutral. Plant-derived biomass contains cellulose, which is more difficult to convert to sugars.  The development of cost-effective and energy-efficient processes to transform cellulose and hemicellulose in biomass into fuels is hampered by significant roadblocks, including the lack of specifically developed energy crops, the difficulty in separating biomass components, low activity of enzymes used to hydrolyze polysaccharides, and the inhibitory effect of fuels and processing byproducts on the organisms responsible for producing fuels from monomeric sugars. This presentation will highlight the research efforts underway at JBEI to overcome these obstacles, with a particular focus on novel approaches to engineering feedstocks which reduce growing and processing costs.


Dr Mortimer completed at BSc in Biology at the University of Bristol, UK. After receiving EPSRC and BBSCR scholarships, she completed an MRes in Bioinformatics (University of Exeter UK) and a PhD in Plant Sciences (University of Cambridge, UK, 2008). She remained at Cambridge University, where as part of the UK bioenergy research center (BSBEC) and an EU FP7 program on biomass improvement (RENEWALL), she completed postdoctoral research on plant cell wall biosynthesis and deconstruction. In 2013, she was awarded a fellowship to continue this research as part of the RIKEN cellulose bioengineering center in Yokohama, Japan. In 2014 she joined Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI,, a ten year, $259M DOE funded project tasked with the development and realization of next-generation biofuels produced from non-food crops. Currently, she is the Director of Plant Systems Biology, where she leads an interdisciplinary team of 10 scientists exploring approaches to improving plant biomass for the production of biofuels and bio products.


Shital Tripathi, Total New Energies USA

ROBUST technology for mitigating microbial contaminations”

Shital A. Tripathi1, Scott R. Akers1, A Joe Shaw2, Chi-Li Liu3, Olivier Rolland1

1 Total New Energies USA Inc., Emeryville, CA

2 Novogy Inc., Cambridge, MA

3 Amyris Biotechnologies, Emeryville, CA

Microbial contamination is a liability for industrial bioprocesses affecting yield, productivity, and operational efficiency.  Contamination control strategies often result in an increase in overall cost.  Such strategies include sterilization, operation at low pH, or application of antimicrobial compounds.  The ROBUST principle focuses on creating an environment where only the desired microorganism has access to essential growth nutrients, leaving contaminants unable to proliferate.  To create such an environment, we have engineered metabolic pathways that enable degradation of specific phosphorous and nitrogen containing chemicals not commonly encountered in nature.   When cultured in media with the desired chemical as a phosphorous or nitrogen source, engineered organisms rapidly outcompete contaminants, resulting in a broadly applicable alternative strategy for creation of selective fermentation environments.


Shital A. Tripathi is an industrial microbiologist who has combined her expertise in molecular biology, genetics and metabolic pathway engineering to create microbes producing industrially relevant products. After joining TOTAL New Energies USA Inc. (a division of TOTAL S.A.) in 2011, Shital has been working on several projects involving various industrial and academic collaborators and partners. Shital has served as technical lead on scouting/scoping activities between various departments of TOTAL S. A. involving external technology due-diligence. Currently, Shital is leading microbiology/fermentation projects at TOTAL NE’s newly developed Bio-Process Platform R&D facility in Emeryville.

Previously, as an industrial biotechnology scientist at Mascoma Corp., Shital delivered engineered strains of industrial Saccharomyces cerevisiae for consolidated Bio-Processing of cellulosic feedstocks, which reduced the need for expensive cellulase enzyme use by 90%, while producing ethanol from wood. The strains containing several cellulolytic and C5 pathway enzymes were successfully scaled-up at a demonstration plant, paving the path to licensing/business acquisition opportunities. Shital also developed the first ever genetic engineering toolbox for a thermophilic anaerobic bacterium Clostrodium thermocellum. At another biotechnology start-up, she led a scientific group which developed yeast strains for producing ethanol and specialty chemicals from macroalgae.

Shital has a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from Dartmouth College. Her thesis focused on elucidating molecular mechanisms of virulence utilized by a human pathogen Vibrio cholerae. Shital describes herself to be fortunate to have had amazingly talented colleagues, with whom she authored several publications in journals including PNAS, J. Bacteriol, Nature and AEM. She is co-inventor on nine patents/PCT applications describing novel metabolic and genetic engineering routes in yeast and bacteria.


Claire Komives, Professor, San Jose State University

“Anti-hemorrhagic Peptide from Didelphis virginiana”

Background The North American Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) has been known for some time to be resistant to snake bite.  Interestingly, the neutralizing  ability of the opossum components extend to some venoms from snake species that are not present in North America, suggesting the possibility that the opossum serum can contribute to the development of a universal antivenom.  The opossum  serum components are generally large, glycosylated molecules from the Ig family of proteins.  The N-terminal sequence of a family of these proteins is highly conserved, and the first 10-15 amino acids of this sequence were published by B. V. Lipps and shown to be able to neutralize a variety of venoms and toxins with various deleterious activities.  Although it appears that the original work was overreaching in its projection, the LTNF peptide indeed has activity against hemorrhagic toxins.  Our goal is to design a very low cost process to produce the peptide using a bacterial expression system. 

Methods  Initial activity studies were performed to determine if the peptide could neutralize hemorrhagic snake venom.  Control mice (n=8) were injected intravenously with a lethal dose of venom pre-incubated with saline, while a separate group (n=8) were injected with the same dose of venom following pre-incubation with chemically synthesized opossum peptide.  Over the course of 48 hours, all of the control mice died while the mice receiving the venom+peptide combination remained healthy.  We have expressed the opossum peptide in E. coli as a tandem repeated chain and purified it using a combination of immobilized metal affinity chromatography and ultrafiltration.  Analysis by LC/MS confirmed  a high abundance of the pure  peptide in our product.  We have begun to explore the ability of the peptide to show similar effects in venom from hemorrhagic snakes of India.

Results Initial studies with the E. coli-produced peptide demonstrate similar protective effects in mice as the chemically synthesized peptide.  

Conclusion The presentation will describe both the production of the peptide in E. coli and the results of our activity studies.  Our goal is to produce a very low cost antivenom therapy for use in developing countries where antivenoms are scarce.  


Dr. Claire Komives is presently a Professor of Chemical Engineering at San Jose State University (SJSU). She has taught ten different courses, including core chemical engineering courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels, as well as Biochemical Engineering lecture and laboratory elective courses. She obtained a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and did postdoctoral research at the ETH Zurich in Switzerland with Professor James E. Bailey. After returning to the US, she held a one year fellowship with American Association for the Advancement of Science to work in the US Agency for International Development with a focus on Child Health Research. She then worked at DuPont in the Bioprocess Engineering Group as a Research Engineer and contributed to the scale-up efforts for the production of 1,3 propanediol in E. coli. Her scholarly activities at SJSU have included both technical and educational developments.  She has recently received a Fulbright-Nehru fellowship award to pursue her current research interest towards the expression and purification of an antivenom peptide from Didelphis virginiana  in E. coli. She has graduated 18 Master’s students, has received over $750K in grants since joining SJSU and she was awarded the Don Eden Award for Excellence in Teaching at SJSU.

3:00 pm to 3:30pm

Networking break


Deepak Dugar, Visolis Inc.,

“Bio-based processes for high performance polymers: Development and commercialization”

Concerns about sustainability of fossil sources and global warming necessitate development and deployment of carbon neutral alternatives, including biofuels and chemicals. The talk will expound upon metabolic engineering and principles for product pathway selection from a commercial perspective. Recent progress towards development of an integrated bio-thermo-chemical process leading to multiple products with applications to elastomers, unsaturated polyester resins, agro-chemicals, and aromatics will also be presented.


Dr. Deepak Dugar is the President of Visolis, Inc. and has deep expertise in bio-based products. He is also a project lead at Cyclotron Road, LBNL. Previously, he worked as a management consultant at PwC Advisory, helping Cleantech clients with their commercialization efforts. He has also consulted for numerous entities like Royal DSM, NREL, Flagship Ventures, etc. He has been a recipient of the Legatum Fellowship and the Martin Family Society for Sustainability Fellowship. Dr. Dugar completed his Dual Degree (B.Tech and M.Tech) in Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology from IIT Delhi and MBA, M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering Practice from MIT.


Fabio De Martino, Genentech

“When a process failure occurs in the Biopharmaceuticals industry: root cause analysis”

This is an introduction to the tools and techniques utilized by the Biopharmaceuticals industry to solve and document problems occurring in the manufacturing area. The speaker will describe the steps and the order in which the components of a root cause analysis are performed.

Areas covered: - Regulatory expectations and guidance.  Root cause analysis, main tools and techniques: 1) The Five Whys, 2) Fish Bone Diagrams, 3) Matrix Diagrams, 4) Fault Tree Analysis

Target Audience: This is an introductory session for people with no previous industry experience that want to know more about how the biopharmaceutical industry solves and documents problems occurring in the manufacturing area.


Fabio De Martino is currently Senior Manager in the Global Quality function at Genentech. Prior to this role he was a Manufacturing Engineer at Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics where he led root cause analysis investigations in compliance with FDA regulations and international quality standards and managed continuous improvement initiatives across Europe, Asia and US. Fabio holds a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Salerno and a Master's degree in Chemical Engineering from Pisa University, Italy. Fabio is a licensed/registered engineer (Italy), a certified Lean Manufacturing Six-Sigma Black Belt and a Project Management Professional (PMP). He is also an active board member of the local Parenteral Drug Association (PDA) and the founder of the Biotech Networking meetup group (BioNet), where likeminded individuals can meet, network and share experiences in the biotech industry.


Closing Remarks