On Friday 29 October, class of 1973 alumnus Chris Hodrien gave a talk on 'A Lifetime in Gas Industry Technology'.
Chris's R&D activities in British Gas and Advantica plc have spanned an unusually broad range of topics across the whole of the gas 'value chain', from the gas field to the end-user gas utilisation technologies. These include: gas production by gasification, power generation (at scales from domestic to power station), CHP (cogeneration), industrial gas use, fuel cells, chemicals production, gas purification, Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS), gas storage and gas hydrates. His teams specialised in computer-aided flowsheeting.
Gas is now the UK's largest energy source and world gas consumption keeps increasing while oil is reaching its peak. Chris pointed out how important the role of process engineers is in the gas industry.
He has been involved in 27 R&D projects during his very rewarding career ranging from natural gas storage, gas hydrate transport, etc... as well as international joint-industry projects.
In 1989 the British gas industry was privatised and internationalised. It has gone through several complete feedstock/process revolutions starting with the coal carbonisation from 1812-1965 and finishing with the North Sea natural gas discovery in 1968 and LNG imports in 2006.
Chris claims that in a way 'the gas industry invented Chemical engineering', as gasworks were built before chemical works.
The 'gas value chain' is crucial involving a great deal of process technology so that it is transmitted for industry, domestic use, ... The sources of energy are not placed where the customers are and these need to be transported. Energy 'refining' produces added value for all fossil fuels.
Finally, he pointed out that the domestic customer demand for gas is a relatively static sector but power generation demand has shot up and gas is a supplier of UK energy larger than oil, the global reserves being plentiful, the extraction process being economical and with very large applications in the energy industry, power generation and in the chemical industry.