IChemE announces 2021 Malaysia Awards winners

Article by Amanda Jasi

The winners of IChemE’s 2021 Malaysia Awards will be entered automatically into the equivalent categories for this year’s Global Awards

SUSTAINABLE and digital innovations came out on top at IChemE’s 2021 Malaysia Awards, hosted virtually on 1 October.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah won the Sustainability Award for developing an integrated membrane distillation and osmotic membrane distillation (MD-OMD) system to produce clean water and energy simultaneously using seawater and solar energy. It uses hydrophobic nanofibre membranes. The pilot plant has produced electricity and is generating up to 18,512 L/d of water for around 20 of the 500 residents and 25 staff in a small rural resort.

The patented, world-first system allows for safe, clean drinking water without the need to depend on arguably more expensive freshwater or alternative energy resources outside of the village. This is especially important during seasons of drought, to solve clean water issues and electricity shortages in rural coastal regions.

Meanwhile, the Young Researcher Award went to Chartered Engineer and sustainability enthusiast How Bing Shen of Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus. He has developed many novel innovations and collaborated in various projects including evaluating the feasibility of a hydrogen production plant, strategically determining optimal fertiliser formulation for a palm oil plantation, and contributing to Sarawak’s state-wide green economy roadmap.

His novel statistical optimisation tool to optimise the performance of waste-oil re-refinery plant Pentas Flora saw product yield improve by 55% and quality by 21%, with a 3.42% and 90.89% reduction in global warming potential and acidification potential.

Bing Shen has had more than 50 articles published, ten of which were within the first half of this year. His research excellence saw him appointed as Associate Editor of Sustainable Chemical Process Design for Frontiers in Sustainability, a sustainability-focussed journal.

Petronas Penapisan (Terengganu)’s visual gas sampling points (VGSP) invention saw it awarded the Oil and Gas Award. The simple stainless-steel sight glass has been designed to show mist or liquid droplets collecting while in the sampling loop, indicating the flushing process must continue until the glass is dry.

With a low prototype cost of RM300 (US$71.9), VGSP has reduced resampling by 75%, reduced the exposure risk to hazardous chemicals, and saved the company more than RM40,000 in repair and workforce costs. Also, it contributes towards a greener environment by reducing the scheduled waste disposal of nitrile gloves by 50%, lowering incineration requirements, and releasing toxic chemicals into the air and soil.

University of Nottingham Malaysia was victorious in the Student Chapter category. The university is boosting its connections with industry and supporting the career development of its students. This is through an impressive range of mentoring activities, technical skills-focused workshops, and careers events with industry leaders in various sectors such as biogas generation, wastewater management, and solar energy.

The university’s unique and creative community outreach activities include a project of virtual workshops to improve English-speaking skills among 7–13-year-old students from local schools and refugee centres, and a contest where students pitched zero-waste solutions. Four winning teams were offered research grants of up to RM20,000 to commercialise their ideas with Green Lagoon Technology, a green energy company in Malaysia.

Other leading organisations in Malaysia were celebrated for excellence in chemical engineering and for using digitalisation in their programmes and processes.

Petronas Digital won the Training and Development Award for its training programme to upskill employees with analytics techniques, and adopting machine learning which offers a more dynamic and impactful way of harnessing and reporting on data. Equipping employees with analytics techniques allowed them to develop models to help solve business-specific pain points and increase day-to-day task efficiency.

A successful pilot training scheme across four of its downstream plants in November 2019 helped solve unique plant process issues, enabling an estimated RM7m of process improvements. It was scaled up group wide and, so far, almost 2,500 employees have enrolled in the programme, with more than 280 now making use of Power BI dashboards (a Power BI dashboard is a single page – often called a canvas – which shows information as graphics, helping to convey the highlights of datasets). Around 112 machine learning projects have generated an estimated potential value creation of RM120m.

The Process Safety Award was won by chemical fertiliser manufacturer ASEAN Bintulu Fertilizer for its digital classification system. The system has enabled 12,141 safety critical assets to be managed more effectively and efficiently for maintenance and inspection. It reduces the risk of major hazards occurring through bypassing incorrect safety critical assets.

Law Chung Lim, Chair of IChemE’s Malaysian Board, said: “Many congratulations to all the IChemE Malaysia Award winners. Your efforts in upskilling your workforce with new digital techniques and systems, supporting your local community, and developing unique innovations to improve production and provide solutions to local issues in a safe and sustainable way, are remarkable.

“Our Awards recognise the highest standards within the chemical engineering community and I would like to thank you for all you do to contribute to our learned society and the advancement of chemical engineering’s contribution for society’s benefit.”

New for this year, all finalists of the IChemE Malaysia Awards had the opportunity to record a short video to share how they felt to be a finalist, and explain more about their project and how it is positively contributing to solutions in the Malaysian community. Videos of the winners were shown during the virtual ceremony. 

You can watch all the finalists’ videos on IChemE’s YouTube channel.

Winners of the IChemE Malaysia Awards will automatically be entered into the equivalent categories at the IChemE Global Awards, which will be delivered through a series of webinars from 5–15 October. Other finalists were announced last month. Winners of the Global Awards are eligible for the overall award, Outstanding Achievement in Chemical and Process Engineering.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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