An energy-saving, non-toxic hydraulic fracturing (fracking) fluid was declared the overall winner at the Institution of Chemical Engineers’ (IChemE) Global Awards 2015.
The fluid, developed by US researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), significantly reduces the pumping pressures required to stimulate shale gas production.
It is non-toxic, potentially recyclable and expands in the presence of carbon dioxide, allowing reservoir rock to be fractured at significantly lower pumping pressures and making less energy intensive.
[The] diverse range of winners from industry and academia is a compelling illustration of our commitment to recognise and advance chemical engineering worldwide
IChemE president Andrew Jamieson
Chemical engineers have been searching for ways to improve the hydraulic fracturing process in response to public concern over the environmental impact of shale gas extraction, the IChemE said.
In addition to claiming the top prize, the PNNL researchers also picked up the Sustainable Technology award for the fluid.
The UK also took home several prizes, with six of the 16 awards going to British organisations – including Cardiff University and the University of Liverpool.
Cardiff University and Johnson Matthey won the Innovative Product of the Year prize for designing a new gold catalyst.
The manufacturing process of polyvinyl chloride through hydro-chlorination of acetylene using mercuric chloride is non-sustainable while supported on a carbon catalyst.
However, the commercialised gold catalyst developed by Cardiff University and Johnson Matthey is non-polluting and has improved performance.
“[The] diverse range of winners from industry and academia is a compelling illustration of our commitment to recognise and advance chemical engineering worldwide,” said IChemE president Andrew Jamieson.
Elsewhere, the award for Process Safety also went to a British company, Suncor Energy .
A multi-disciplinary team from Canada, Norway, USA and the UK found new laser-based sensor technology that improves safety, reduces maintenance requirements and eliminates downtime from false alarms.