Safety Instrumented Systems

IChemE Names Global Award Winners

Technology aimed at gold mining takes the gold

By MARK ROSENZWEIG, Editor in Chief

In early November, the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), Rugby, U.K., announced the winners of the IChemE Global Awards 2014. The honors recognize accomplishments in more than a dozen categories. Synergen Met Pty. Ltd., Brisbane, Australia, and the University of Queensland, Brisbane, received the “Overall Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemical and Process Engineering,” beating more than 60 other entries. In addition, they won the “Core Chemical Engineering Award” for their development.

“Few professions have the power globally to shape and improve the future. Chemical engineers have this privilege and this year’s IChemE Global Awards illustrate how our profession is setting new standards in healthcare, energy, water, safety, and a more-sustainable planet, including supporting some of the poorest people in the world,” notes IChemE president Geoff Maitland.

Synergen and the University of Queensland developed technology that allows on-site production of sodium cyanide at gold and silver mines. The cyanide is used to extract the precious metals from low-grade ore.

The process produces sodium cyanide at a cost as much as 50% lower than the market price and avoids the need to transport, store and handle large volumes of the highly toxic chemical. The cyanide is produced to the exact specification required, typically a 25%–35% dilute solution, and pumped directly from the production tank to the site’s holding tank in a closed system.

The production system is housed in a shipping-container-sized skid. Self-contained and transportable, the module holds a plasma-based cyanide generation unit that only requires process connections and utilities and can be run unattended. It can produce 450 tons of cyanide per year.

A commercial prototype started operating this year at a gold mine in Australia.

A video giving more details about the process is accessible at

Category winners included:
 • Bioprocessing — BP, London, for its Hummingbird bioethanol-to-ethylene process. The technology is ultra-selective and less complex than alternative technologies, and available at a variety of scales.

• Sustainable technology — Johnson Matthey Davy Technologies, London, for a process to produce high-grade biodiesel from renewable waste oils. The technology boasts high efficiency and selectivity as well as low utility costs, and features reactive distillation. (For more on reactive distillation, see “Will a Sea Change Occur?”)

• Chemical engineering project — Huntsman Pigments, Greatham, U.K., for an improvement program that enables use of a broader range of abundant, less-expensive feedstocks, coupled with a new reactor design that increases yield, and a recovery scheme that makes a saleable product from waste.

• Process safety — BP Australia, Melbourne, Worley Parsons, Sydney, et al. for successfully implementing a complex safety instrumented system at the Whinstanes fuel storage terminal in Australia, and, in so doing, providing a global proof of concept for protecting against a Buncefield-type overflow and explosion event. (For details about the Buncefield explosion and other major disasters as well as lessons that should be learned from them, see “Bhopal Leaves a Lasting Legacy.")

Outstanding chemical engineering innovation for resource-poor people — Redeemer’s University, Osun State, Nigeria, for developing a clay-papaya adsorbent for water treatment.

For a full rundown on all the award categories along with the winners and others receiving commendations in each, go to

rosenzweigweb.jpgMARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's Editor in Chief. You can email him at