Over the years, I have made many R&D contacts and friends at the South East University although recently I have not had so much time available to keep up to date with their research priorities. Thus, I was very pleased to receive a letter from my old friend Prof Rui Xiao, Head of the School of Energy and Environment. The letter included an invitation to give a plenary lecture at the 1st International Conference on Energy & Environment (ICEE), which was held in Nanjing, China from 19-22 September 2019.
The aim of the conference was to provide a platform to stimulate new ideas and explore new issues of energy and environment related science and technology options. There was a good range of plenary speakers together with seven parallel sessions focusing on various aspects of the conversion of biomass and solid wastes; measurement and process control for energy and power engineering; multiphase flows and reactor design, energy storage; and chemical looping and oxyfuel combustion. Much of this work will have scope for inclusion in the Circular Economy developments ongoing in China. It was a very positive occasion, with everyone very focused but happy to talk about their work.
I gave a lecture on the role of the IEA Clean Coal Centre, with special emphasis on our next cofiring conference that will take place with support from NEDO in Kokura, Japan from 25-27 February 2020. This led to several interesting discussions after the session and I feel sure that I will see some of the Chinese researchers at our event next year.
There were more than 400 attendees from over 20 countries, with well over 100 peer reviewed papers. The presentations were of good quality and well received. However, the thing that I was most impressed with was the inclusion of over 250 poster presentations, most of which related to the processing and utilisation of various biomass and waste products to create higher value end-products. Plenty of time was made available to view the posters and hear the young scientists explain what they were doing and why. I recall when China decided to explore the potential of coal conversion to fuels and specialist chemicals, which is now a major industrial sector. This programme is following a similar approach with an extensive range of techniques being researched for achieving significant added value from what are low grade and waste products. The posters all list the source of the support for these first stage studies, which include Government research providers together with various entrepreneurial companies eager to gain an edge. These options will all be researched then evaluated and assessed as to ultimate commercial potential. The better options will be taken forward to pilot then demonstration scale and at the end of this process China will have some more commercial options. Given that China produces over 1 billion tonnes of agricultural residues, tree trimmings and other solid and liquid wastes that can otherwise be difficult to dispose of, this programme could lead to a valuable economic benefit while having a major positive impact on its national environmental targets.
My thanks to all the staff who together with the army of local volunteers from South East University worked so hard helped to organise the event. It was a great success and I am sure that this is just the start of an extensive conference platform.