Women’s Engineering Society annual conference: ‘Harnessing the Energy’

Chaired by Isobel A Pollock BSc (Eng), CEng, Hon DSc, FIMechE, FCGI
The IMechEng, London, October 2013

Held at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Westminster, London, the Women’s Engineering Society one day conference is an annual opportunity for women in engineering and related technologies to get together and ‘harness their energy’. The event was designed to give delegates an overview of a range of energy technologies including nuclear, renewable, oil and gas, fracking, community energy, the low carbon economy, energy efficiency and public opinion, through speeches given by leading experts in these fields.

See more at: www.wes.org.uk/energy

The conference was divided into the following sessions;

Session 1: Speakers from specialist fields of Nuclear Fission, Oil & Gas and Fracking

Chaired by Isobel A Pollock BSc (Eng), CEng, Hon DSc, FIMechE, FCGI Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor, Engineering and Design – University of Leeds.

Dame Sue Ion OBE, FREng, FIC, FINucE, FIMMM

Last Gasp or Second Wind for Nuclear Fission

In an exothermic reaction, nuclear fission involves a nuclear reaction or a radioactive decay process in which an atom’s nucleus is split into smaller parts (lighter nuclei), which can release large amounts of energy both as electromagnetic radiation and as kinetic energy of the fragments.

In her talk, Sue outlined the position of nuclear fission in the global marketplace, the different attitudes of different countries, the technologies being pursued and the likelihood of each of reaching commercialisation in the next two decades. She highlighted the engineering challenges still being faced, and discussed similar challenges which will be faced in bringing fusion to industrial deployment. Looking into the future, she challenged the perception that large-scale devices of either fission or fusion technology are the best way forward and highlighted why some of the so-called ‘Small Modular Reactors’ are creating and receiving interest.

See more about Sue and her work at: www.wes.org.uk/content/sue-ion

Madeleine Brown — BP

Future Energy Demands: A perspective from the Oil and Gas Industry

Currently working in a role of Senior Corrosion Engineer at BP, Madeleine has worked in the oil and gas industry for 11 years and has specialised in management of offshore equipment, pipelines and inshore processing facilities, her passions lying in managing and extending the life of ageing equipment.

In her talk Madeleine provided an overview of anticipated energy sources and demands up to 2030 and beyond. During a presentation she showed how oil and gas is discovered, extracted and used during it’s role in energy and more.

Professor Zoe Shipton — University of Strathclyde

UK Shale Gas: Frack On, Frack Off or Frack Well?

A professor of Geological Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering at Strathclyde University, Zoe Shipton is a structural geologist researching fault growth process, the link between faulting and fluid flow, and the structure of modern and exhumed earthquake faults.

Zoe gave an informative talk on the facts of fracking (hydraulic fracturing for shale gas), discussing negative public perception and the arguments of campaign groups such as “Frack Off” that shale gas extraction could produce significant environmental damage, as well as those in favour who believe that an indigenous source of UK gas will enhance energy security and may result in falling household energy bills. She argued that there is potential to be able to “frack well”, in that it should be possible to extract considerable shale gas resources with minimum negative impact to the environment.

She referred to a Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering working group report, “Shale gas extraction in the UK: a review of the scientific and engineering evidence” which investigates the major risks associated with fracking and asked how these risks can be effectively managed. The report found that the health, safety and environmental risks associated with fracking for shale gas can be managed effectively in the UK as long as operational best practices are implemented and enforced through legislation. This risk of groundwater contamination (both from natural gas and water and from fracking fluids) via hydraulic fractures is very low. Seismicity is also very low risk, and where it does occur it is likely to be at magnitudes less than those regularly felt near abandoned coalfields. Ensuring borehole integrity must be the highest priority to prevent groundwater and surface contamination. The joint academies’ report recommended implementing robust monitoring systems to address uncertainties in the subsurface process and to strengthen public confidence. She thinks that if the public can be convinced that it is possible to ‘frack well’, shale gas has a place as a bridge between traditional, declining fossil fuels and renewables. (report summary source: The Women’s Engineering Society)

See more about Zoe at: www.strath.ac.uk/civeng/staff/zoeshipton/
The joint academies’ report can be seen at: www.raeng.org.uk/news/publications/list/reports/Shale_Gas.pdf

Session 2: Early Career Engineers Present their Work

Chaired by Dr Stephanie Merry, Sector Advisor — Renewable Energy Association.

Philippa Hardy — University of Leeds

Nanocrystal Solar Cells: Fabrication and Characterisation

Philippa, who is currently in the final stages of completing a PhD in solar Cell Engineering at the University of Leeds, presented her work on addressing the issues with existing solar panel technology – namely that they are an expensive way of producing energy compared to fossil fuels, as well as having low commercial efficiency of around 20%. She presented her proposal for novel device using lower cost materials, as well as the incorporation of nanomaterials which increase the cell’s efficiency.

See more at: http://philippahardy.moonfruit.co.uk/

Holly Driver MEng — Trent 1000-TEN Development Technical Lead — Rolls Royce plc

Environmental Challenges within the Civil Aerospace Industry

Holly gave us an overview of the factors driving the civil aerospace market towards more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly engines before introducing us to a new engine she is developing with Rolls-Royce PLC, the Trent 1000-TEN which will power the largest version of the Boeing 787. The engine has been developed to produce additional thrust and provide superior fuel-burn performance compared with its predecessors. The engine, which runs on standard aviation fuel has been designed to incorporate several innovative technologies to bring about performance increases by making the most efficient use of energy available from the fuel.

She discussed the challenges of introducing new technologies, including certification and testing of the new engine such as bird-ingestion and fan blade-off testing, and then went on to share her prediction for the future of aircraft engine technology.

Laura Daniels BSc, ACSM — Energy Engineer — Marks & Spencers and Engineering Doctorate Candidate — University of Reading

A Match Made in Smart Grid Heaven: Retailers and Diesel Generators

Laura presented her work on researching the field of electricity load shifting for the advancement of green retailing. She is sponsored by Matrix Controls Solution, as well as Marks and Spencer, who plan to become the worlds most sustainable retailer.

The Smart Grid, which is concerned with managing intermittent with flexible demand, is vital in order to meet international targets for renewable energy generation and carbon emissions reduction. Demand Side Management projects which shift their load to different times of the day can change the operation of equipment like fridges and lighting. Retailers could also generate electricity in store with standby generators to offset some ‘grid connected’ loads at certain times of the day, in addition to an overall reduction in their demand.

See more at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/tsbe/Current-research-projects/EngDProfiles/Laura_Daniels_Profile_1.aspx

Tara Hughes BEng(Hons), MSc, PGCE, AMIMechE, MWES — PhD Researcher, University of Salford

Observing the Everyday in terms of Energy Use in the Home

Tara’s research has involved tagging and tracking people in their own homes by the novel use of a combination of methods to observe their everyday domestic energy use. These methods involve the use of wearable technology, wireless sensor networks, Raspberry Pi computers, appliance monitoring and Grounded Theory.

Appliance-level energy use is recorded at the same time as tracking the location of individuals around the home, so energy use can be attributed to individuals by combining both sets of data. Flexibility to observe patterns of behaviour as they emerge is enabled through adopting a Grounded Theory approach.

Tara is a final year PhD student working on the Salford University Monitoring and Management Energy Research (SUMMER) Project.

See more at: http://hub.salford.ac.uk/energymonitoring/about/

Maria Spyrou – Research Engineer — Tesco, Engineering Doctorate Candidate — Loughborough University

Energy Modelling of Buildings in the Tesco Estate

Maria’s research is concerned with the different types of food retail stores in the UK, their electricity and gas consumption and the data currently available on this. She talked about her most recent findings in looking at the various electricity and gas-end uses, and a model that calculates the electricity and gas consumption of stores in order to help identify those that are inefficient.

Through analysing existing energy consumption data of buildings in the Tesco estate, benchmarking consumption and finding stores that are not consuming in line with benchmarks, Maria aims to develop modelling tools for calculating energy consumption which will lead to demonstrable savings.

Maria is carrying out her project as a collaboration between the Centre for Innovative and Collaborative Engineering at Loughborough University and Tesco’s Energy Environmental team.