9.3 SKILLS

9.3 SKILLS

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SKILLS
2013 Shell Global Energy Forum
Winning Entry
By Sharmen Rajendran
PhD Student in Energy, Fuels and Reaction Engineering Group,
Department of Chemical Engineering, Monash University



Recently, Shell Australia organised the Global Energy Forum as part of a worldwide series of debates on the world’s future energy demand.

The forum provided students and industry leaders with an opportunity to examine differing views on future energy supplies and their associated complexities and challenges.

Sharmen Rajendran was one of four finalists selected to present at the forum from universities across eastern Australia. Sharmen is a PhD student at Monash University working on the BCIA funded Chemical Looping research project.


THE URGENT NEED FOR CCS - MY THOUGHTS



I strongly believe that there is a growing need in the energy sector which will require the development of advanced engineering technologies to better meet the energy demands of the future while at the same time circumventing adverse environmental impacts.

It is a well-known fact that over 60 per cent of the world’s energy is generated using fossil fuels and this value increases to around 95 per cent in Australia.

Such a heavy dependency on fossil fuels for power generation has made the energy sector the principal source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The main greenhouse gas produced, CO2, is extremely hazardous to the environment as it is the largest contributor to global warming. This results in extreme weather changes, degradation of the ecosystems, global temperature increase as well as engendering acute health problems.

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from a value of 280ppm in the 18th century to over 390ppm at present, signifying an increase of over 40 per cent.

The adverse effects of high greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere has been studied in great detail by both governmental and non-governmental bodies around the world. The general consensus is the need for CO2 emissions to be halved over the next few decades to prevent irreversible catastrophic climate changes, this includes melting of the Arctic ice.

Having said all of the above, the fact remains that fossil fuels will still continue to power the world for the foreseeable future as alternative technologies presently available in the market will not be able to replace conventional power plants due to low technological maturity, together with high capital and associated operational costs.

The solution I proposed was to continue utilising fossil fuels but with carbon capture, while more research is conducted into maturing technologies employing other energy sources such as renewables.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies allow for the generated CO2 to be separated and then stored in reservoirs such as underground geological foundations, deep saline aquifers, depleted oil reservoirs and bacterial ponds. This prevents the release of CO2 into the atmosphere hence mitigating its harmful effect on the environment.


Above: Sharmen Rajendran presents his winning paper at the 2013 Shell Global Energy Forum

The downside of this technique is that it has a high cost of operation, but a breakthrough has been made with the inception of a process termed Chemical Looping Combustion (CLC). CLC is reported to be one of the most promising CCS options to-date due to its high carbon capture efficiency, while marginally increasing the cost of electricity. This is an excellent option for CCS and the only downside at present is the same that plagues most other options in the market, insufficient technological maturity.

My research deals with Chemical Looping Combustion of Victorian brown coal looking particularly at potential operational issues which may be encountered from the utilisation of such a feedstock. My project is supervised by Professor Sankar Bhattacharya and sponsored by both Brown Coal Innovation Australia (BCIA) as well as EnergyAustralia.

I hope to add more knowledge in this field as I strongly believe that CCS, particularly CLC, will be the way to go with regards to clean energy generation of the future.


PRESENTATION TO THE SHELL GLOBAL ENERGY FORUM



The Shell Global Energy Forum was held at The Australian Museum in Sydney on the 17th of October 2013.

The attendees of the forum were from diverse fields including energy, transportation, education, construction, legal, business and management. The night started out with drinks and canapés in one of the museum’s exhibits before moving into the hall which housed the forum.

The forum was opened by Scott Wyatt, Vice President of Shell Australia’s Downstream Operations. He stated that energy demand is projected to double in less than a century, which will place significant stresses on energy resources globally.

Mr Wyatt also talked about how Shell is collaborating with various groups from the industry, government and academia to ensure that everyone is involved in playing an active role in finding a solution to one of the defining issues of this century.

Mr Wyatt’s speech ended with encouragement targeted at students to challenge Shell with new ideas and thoughts which may shape tomorrow, but asked that we start today.

He then gave the floor over to the keynote speaker of the evening, Professor Veena Sahajwalla. Prof Sahajwalla talked about her research involving the use of carbonaceous waste materials as feedstock for carbon-based industries such as iron making, steelmaking, and ceramics.

Prof Sahajwalla ended her talk by saying that many of the items that we deem to be waste can be used as a feedstock in another process and that we need to be innovative in the way we view these things.


FORUM DISCUSSION ON ENERGY RESOURCES AND RISING DEMAND



The finalists, including myself, were then invited to present a summary of our papers to the attendees of the forum. Following the presentations, guests had an opportunity to network with one another; it was an excellent opportunity to meet people from such diverse backgrounds to discuss a common problem, energy.

After dinner, the finalists were invited on stage to participate in the highlight of the night, the Shell Global Energy Forum. The forum was facilitated by Mr Wyatt as well as Fairfax Australian Publishing Media division Business Editor, James Chessell.

The finalists were asked a few questions as to where they thought the world should get its energy from in the future. This involved elaborating on some of the points highlighted in our papers.

The forum was then opened to the attendees to ask questions, which led to many interesting discussions on topics including policies and awareness, to name a few. The forum was then called to a close and the rest of the night involved additional networking opportunities.

Overall, the forum was a wonderful experience. It was encouraging and reinvigorating for me to see people from vast backgrounds coming together to discuss an important issue for the future as well as the present.




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