David White, 1935–2024

Article by David Lemon AFIChemE

ICHEME Fellow David White, who was awarded IChemE’s Hebden Medal in 2015 for his work on gasification, died on 23 January aged 88. A co-founder of the subject interest group (SIG) Energy Conversion Technology alongside John Griffiths and a Greene Medal winner in 1998, David represented IChemE at the Parliamentary Group for Energy Studies and wrote Energy At The Crossroads for IChemE in 2001.

Born in Tottenham in 1935 (he remained a loyal Spurs supporter all his life), David studied diligently and despite the challenges of a wartime education and with it relocation to Hertfordshire, managed to get the qualifications he needed to get to university the first in his family to do so. Following a degree in general sciences he qualified as a chemical engineer via a master’s at Kings College London and became an IChemE graduate member in 1956.

He joined Esso Petroleum in 1957 as a graduate apprentice and spent ten years at their Fawley refinery in plant operations management. He met his wife Judy (who pre-deceased him in 2009) in the refinery choir. Music remained a strong interest and he was a member of the St Cecilia Chorus, who sang at his memorial service, for over 40 years.

All his activities were carried out in an excellent humour – it was a joy to work with him.

He was assigned to Esso’s London headquarters in 1967 where he was offered a career change into marketing, and further moves to Esso Europe and Exxon Corporation in New York (19741976) followed. In the 1970s, with the major oil companies purchasing coal reserves, Exxon developed a new mine in northeast Columbia, US. As a chemical engineer with marketing experience, he was appointed European marketing manager and travelled extensively for Esso Europe and Exxon Coal.

He took early retirement from Esso in1987 which launched a second phase of his career. He created his own consultancy, Enconsult, specialising in clean energy technologies about which he was passionate as all his volunteering colleagues at IChemE will attest.

With the days of coal combustion numbered and clean power generation the objective, the IChemE SIG, Energy Conversion Technology, was formed in 1994 by White and Griffiths. David established strong bonds with the US Gasification Technologies Council, attending over 20 annual conferences, while the SIG ran international conferences on gasification and UK seminars on clean energy. Latterly renamed as the Clean Energy SIG, it currently has the second largest membership at IChemE.

Those of us who were privileged to know him recognised a talented engineer with a deep intellect and a strong understanding of technologies, systems, their cost-effectiveness, and applications in the energy sector. All his activities were carried out in an excellent humour – it was a joy to work with him.

David will be deeply missed by his children Clare and Chris and their families of whom he was truly proud. 

Article by David Lemon AFIChemE

Committee member and past secretary of IChemE’s Clean Energy SIG

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