Public Release:  Queen's University included in chemical engineering roll of honor

Queen's wins IChemE Nicklin Medal for removing harmful mercury from natural gas

Queen's University Belfast

Queen's University Belfast chemists are celebrating after being named on the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) roll of honour for 2013. The chemists have been recognised for their work in removing harmful mercury from natural gas.

The award of the IChemE Nicklin Medal is the latest accolade for the University's multi-award winning partnership with Malaysian oil and gas giant PETRONAS which has developed a much more environmentally friendly and safer gas production process.

The Nicklin Medal has been awarded jointly to Queen's Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) and PETRONAS for the mercury removal project, which was also the major winner at the global IChemE Awards in November, receiving three awards.

Queen's and PETRONAS are among 20 individuals and organisations from around the world being honoured by IChemE for their achievements and exceptional work across all aspects of chemical, process and biochemical engineering.

Their award-winning technology is being used to produce mercury-free natural gas at two PETRONAS plants in Malaysia. Explaining how it works, Professor Martin Atkins from QUILL said: "Mercury is one of the biggest threats to downstream processing in the oil and gas exploration industries, so it is a huge problem for companies like PETRONAS. It contaminates natural gas, corrodes processing equipment, and compromises the safety of processing plants and the quality of the end product. The amount of mercury present can vary considerably, which makes it incredibly difficult to manage.

"We developed a new ionic liquid based formulation which completely removes mercury from natural gas and is capable of handling the unpredictable surges of mercury in the gas stream. The result is a robust technology, providing a cost-effective and sustainable production process. It is a cutting-edge development, and we are delighted that it has been recognised yet again by IChemE.

"This latest accolade is further global recognition of the impact of Queen's world-leading research in 'green' chemistry and its potential for powering a more sustainable future. On behalf of QUILL and PETRONAS I would like to thank IChemE for this great honour."

IChemE chief executive, David Brown, said: "Announcing the IChemE medal and prize winners each year is one of my great privileges. It's also a time to reflect on the excellent work that is taking place to 'advance chemical engineering worldwide'.

"2013's roll of honour includes winners from Japan, Austria, Italy, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, UK, France, Australia, Ireland and Germany. All have one thing in common - over the past year they have shown talent, expertise and sheer hard work to promote chemical engineering and the profession. I would like to congratulate them all and welcome their names to the rich and growing history of IChemE medal and prize winners."

QUILL is home to nearly 100 scientists who are exploring the enormous potential of ionic liquids or 'designer solvents'. QUILL Co-Director Professor Jim Swindall said: "Ionic liquids are salts that remain liquid at room temperature and do not release hazardous vapours. They can be used as non-polluting alternatives to conventional solvents, and are revolutionising chemical processes by offering cleaner, greener and smarter solutions to traditional methods.

"Queen's is dedicated to advancing knowledge and changing lives, and QUILL's work on ionic liquid chemistry has a bearing on most of our lives. Ionic liquids have huge potential to revolutionise how we live and work, and our impact on the environment. Our inclusion in the IChemE roll of honour enhances the University's reputation as a global authority in this increasingly important area of research."

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For more information on QUILL visit http://quill.qub.ac.uk

For more information on the IChemE visit http://www.icheme.org

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen's University Communications Office +44 (0)28 9097 5320 comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

1. Professor Jim Swindall is available for interview.

2. The Nicklin medal is awarded to a winning entry from IChemE awards programme, in the previous two years (2012 and2013), that best demonstrates a significant contribution to either the development of chemical, process or biochemical technology or the overall profession.

3. The IChemE Nicklin Medal is the latest in a string of successes for QUILL. At the IChemE Awards in November 2013, QUILL and PETRONAS collected the overall award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemical and Process Engineering, the team also won the Sustainable Technology Award and the Chemical Engineering Project of the year Award, marking it out as the best chemical engineering project. In October 2013, the collaboration received the Malaysian IChemE Sustainable Technology Award for the same technology.

4. In 2013, ionic liquids were named the Most Important British Innovation of the 21st Century in recognition of their potential future impact on the world, in a poll initiated by the Science Museum, beating the Nobel Prize winning Higgs boson discovery.

5. In addition, QUILL scientists Professor Ken Seddon and Dr John Holbrey were named the top two research chemists in the UK by Times Higher Education.

6. QUILL's partnership with PETRONAS began in 2007 and has brought together Queen's expertise in green chemistry with PETRONAS' experience in oil and gas production. In addition to the mercury removal process, a number of other joint projects are at a mature state of development.

7. IChemE has been awarding medals since 1928 when the Osborne Reynolds medal (now known as the Arnold Greene medal) was presented to former IChemE president Sir Alexander Gibb. A full list of 2013 medal and prize winners is available at http://www.icheme.org/media_centre/news/2014/icheme-publishes-medals-roll-of-honour.aspx#.UxWqdfnV9yU

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