2012 Annual Meeting Plenary | AIChE


Presentation Speaker
CO2 Capture, Utilization and Storage, and Natural Gas/Oil Recovery: Harnessing Scientific Development and Business Principles to Achieve Fossil Energy Sustainability

Charles McConnell

Comparative Advantage - North American Manufacturing the Shale Gas Century

David Porges
Chemistry and Energy: Fortifying Our Historic Links Greg Babe
Nuclear Energy: Is there as future after Fukushima? Aris Candris


CO2 Capture, Utilization and Storage, and Natural Gas/Oil Recovery: Harnessing Scientific Development and Business Principles to Achieve Fossil Energy Sustainability

Charles McConnell, Department of Energy (DOE)

Fossil fuels currently comprise more than 80 percent of global (and U.S.) energy consumption and are expected to continue to play a critical role in meeting the world’s energy needs for the foreseeable future.  Making use of these fuel sources in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable manner will require technologies that can be broadly applied in the marketplace.  The Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy is focused on the research, development and deployment (RD&D) of technologies that combine the latest scientific and technical advances with sound business principles to achieve fossil energy sustainability in an economically viable manner.  Key examples of this RD&D include carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies to achieve carbon dioxide (CO2) mitigation while storing and commercially utilizing the captured CO2, and advanced approaches to natural gas and oil recovery, such as hydraulic fracturing.  Going forward, a critical focus will also be on ensuring the safety and sustainability of these technologies and practices.

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Comparative Advantage -- North American Manufacturing and the Shale Gas Century

David Porges, EQT Corporation 

Over the long term, there are two fundamentals in North America's natural gas markets:

  1. Supply will remain robust; and
  2. Price will remain moderate and stable.

This new-found, but likely durable, situation provides many opportunities to resuscitate the petrochemical industry in North America.  The challenge is also twofold: the natural gas production business must develop this asset in the most sustainable manner, and the petrochemical industry must determine how best take advantage of this ample, inexpensive fuel and feedstock.

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Chemistry and Energy: Fortifying Our Historic Links

Greg Babe, Orbital Engineering, Formerly Bayer Corporation

Centuries ago, early ideas were formulating that would advance the science of organic chemistry. Since its beginnings, there have been many organic chemistry milestones. They include in 1856, the discovery of a purple dye which helped usher in the modern organic chemistry industry.

Henry Perkin, a precocious 18-year-old British chemist, synthesized the first synthetic dyestuff from aniline, a chemical molecule of coal tar. Perkin’s discovery was accidental. He had set out to produce quinine, a drug to treat malaria.

From this lucky accident grew the synthetic dyestuffs industry. In 1857, with financial help from his father, Perkin opened a factory near London to produce his new purple dye. In Barmen Germany, just six years later, Friedrich Bayer and Johann Weskott began making dyestuffs from coal tar derivatives in the Weskott family sink—a very modest beginning for today’s Bayer Group. Yet without the proliferation of gas lighting in the 19th century, there would have been be no readily available coal tar derivatives. The synthetics dyestuffs that allowed the then young chemistry industry to flourish would not have been possible.

Chemistry’s historic links to energy production are often overlooked. Yet the industry’s raw materials still come from the same hydrocarbons that made possible the Industrial Revolution and mass production miracles of the last century.

Oil—and especially natural gas—continue to be the chemistry industry’s building blocks for more than 96 percent of all manufactured goods. Yet the industry has been whipsawed over the years by natural gas supply shortages and high prices. Between 1999 and 2005 alone, U.S. natural gas prices quadrupled. Consequently, the U.S. chemistry industry shed more than 120,000 jobs in the last two decades. Many of those jobs were lost to nations with lower natural gas prices.

Lower natural gas prices and increase supplies from shale gas can be a game changer for the chemistry industry. An American Chemistry Council study concludes that American shale gas development can lead to 400,000 chemistry and supply industry jobs, $16 billion in capital investment, $132 billion in economic output, and more than $4 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue each year. The benefits are already beginning to roll in.

What’s more, shale gas can yield ethane, an essential petrochemical feedstock. The Appalachian States are prime locations for new petrochemical facilities. An ACC study found that a new petrochemical facility in Ohio would yield nearly $8 billion in new output, 17,000 chemistry and supplier jobs, $1 billion in wages and nearly $170 million in state tax revenue annually.

Last year, a TIME magazine cover story on shale gas reported, “This Rock Could Power the World.” That’s hyperbole. But there is no denying that we’ve entered a golden age of natural gas supply.

America needs an “all of the above” energy strategy. We need one that promotes all domestic energy resources, from coal, oil and natural gas to nuclear power and renewables. We also need to rigorously promote energy efficiency. In this regard, chemistry companies are leading the way in developing energy-efficient products and technology. Examples include lightweight automotive products, building insulation, and materials and technologies used in solar panels, wind turbines and lithium batteries.

To get to where we need to be, industry must work to remove four obstacles that stand in the way of success. They are communication, politics, behavior and science education.

Most people don’t understand the upsides of the chemistry and energy industries, and the strong links that form fundamental economic strengths for our nation.  We need to start a conversation and keep it going with opinion leaders, elected officials, regulators, NGOs, plant communities, critics and employees. We must listen to them, act on what we hear and use every communication channel available.

Paradoxically, even as public trust of government is diminishing, legislation—some of it ill-conceived— is growing. Far too often, the chemistry and energy industries are at the end of the legislative pipeline. We should be at the beginning, designing solutions for the future instead of fighting yesterday’s battles. We must continuously advance the understanding of how our operations affect human health and the environment. Only then can we ensure that legislation is based on sound science.

The chemistry and energy industries must take all safety, facility security and environmental protection processes to a higher level. We must hold ourselves to the highest standards, admit where we have fallen short and follow up with corrective action.

On the education front, The Department of Education estimates that America will need 400,000 new graduates in STEM fields by 2015. We’re not likely to get them. America’s students continue to lag in science education at a time when they need it to succeed in a highly competitive, worldwide economy. We must reverse this trend and begin with students at an early age.

The chemistry and energy industries have come a long way together since Henry Perkin’s accidental discovery. We have a lot in common. Working together, we can break down the barriers to continued progress.

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Nuclear Energy: Is there a future after Fukushima?

Aris Candris, Westinghouse Electric

The future of the global nuclear energy industry, while certainly not without its challenges, remains vibrant. Even as the industry contends with near-record-low natural gas prices and the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the reality is that global demand for electricity and concern over carbon emissions will ensure that nuclear energy becomes an even larger source of global electricity. In fact, as a result of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the passive safety design of the Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power plant is making it an even more popular choice in the global new plant market. Additionally, Westinghouse is working on next-generation nuclear technology that extends the benefits of the AP1000.

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