• Message from new IFRF Director, Philip Sharman

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      Philip Sharman

      IFRF Director

Good evening to all ‘Monday Night Mail’ readers and best wishes for the New Year!

This is my first MNM as the incoming Director of IFRF and I thought that it would be helpful to tell you a little bit about the new ‘host’ organisation for IFRF (the University of Sheffield), the proposed new way of operating (with the IFRF office in Sheffield focused on Member Services and ‘preferred research partner(s)’ undertaking research activities) and me as the new Director.

The move from Livorno in Italy to Sheffield in the UK is only the second move that IFRF has made in its 68-year history, the first being from IJmuiden in the Netherlands to Livorno in 2006.  This current relocation has been precipitated by the changing research focus of Enel (owners of the Livorno site) and their plans to decommission their research facilities on the site.  As a result, the governing council of IFRF considered a number of relocation options and selected a proposal from the University of Sheffield to host the Foundation for the next ‘chapter’ of its life.

The University of Sheffield is located in South Yorkshire, England – the historical heart of the UK’s iron and steel-making industry and the UK’s coalfields, and now a vibrant centre for advanced manufacturing technology.  The University, which dates from 1905, is a ‘world top-100 university’ with around 27,000 students benefiting from its reputation for the excellence, impact and distinctiveness of its research-led teaching and learning.

The University is renowned for going beyond traditional research boundaries:  A key example is its Energy2050 initiative involving over 400 people (120 academic staff and over 250 PhD students) and ‘national labs’ and facilities on fuels and combustion, carbon capture and storage, energy storage, renewables, etc.  As its name implies, Energy2050 is considering all the ‘dimensions’ of what our energy systems might look like in the middle of this century and beyond.  The initiative is led by Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, a leading UK academic in combustion research with more than £10 million of active research projects and nearly 450 refereed research papers to his name:  We are very pleased that Mohamed has now taken on the role of General Secretary of IFRF.

Sheffield has had very strong links with IFRF from the beginning.  Meredith Thring of the British Iron & Steel Research Association – whose research labs were located in Sheffield – first proposed “an international research project on luminous radiation” in 1948, and, together with key personnel in the Netherlands and France, began an informal and fruitful collaboration that led to the formation of the IFRF.  As well as being IFRF’s first Superintendent of Research, Meredith Thring became Professor and Head of Department of Fuel Technology and Chemical Engineering at the University of Sheffield in the 1950s.  In the 1960s, Professor John Beer from the University was appointed Head of Station for IFRF in IJmuiden, and in the 1980s and 1990s Professor Jim Swithenbank (of Fluent fame) became first Deputy Superintendent and then Superintendent of Research, with Dr Roman Weber (formerly of the University) serving as Senior Scientist.  So, there is perhaps a sense of ‘destiny’ that IFRF is now being hosted by the University of Sheffield…

Another key part of the University’s Energy2050 initiative is the PACT facilities near Sheffield.  These pilot-scale rigs and other facilities form part of the UK’s Pilot-scale Advanced CO2 Capture Technology (PACT) national specialised research and development facilities for combustion and CCS research, encompassing advanced fossil fuel energy, bioenergy and carbon capture and storage/utilisation technologies for industrial and power generation applications.  PACT is a collaborative venture between the UK universities of Cranfield, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Leeds, Nottingham and Sheffield.  It forms part of the UK Carbon Capture & Storage Research Centre (UKCCSRC) jointly funded by the UK government and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).  Under the new modus operandi of IFRF, PACT will be the initial ‘preferred research partner’ for the IFRF, undertaking Member and contract research activities.  PACT’s rigs are in the 50-750kWth range (and 1tCO2/day for the capture plant), and it is proposed to develop other preferred research partners in the coming months to provide access to larger rigs.  I will use the next MNM bulletin to tell you more about PACT’s rigs and analysis facilities and their current activities, as well as how we intend to widen IFRF’s partnerships for undertaking flame/combustion research activities.

Finally, a word about myself.  I am an engineer with over 35 years of experience in the energy sector working initially as a mining engineer in the UK coal industry, then as a specialist for the UK government (on R&D programme management, technology transfer with US and Canadian companies/universities and inward investment opportunities and programmes), then as a chief consultant and business manager for AEA Technology plc, and then as a director with Alstom Power.  In undertaking those roles, I have been focussed mainly on fossil fuel and biomass combustion/gasification and CCS technologies.  Since leaving Alstom five years ago, I have undertaken a wide range of activity for various clients in industry, academia, government and other agencies, in the UK, Australia, Europe and the USA.  What I bring to the role of Director of IFRF is a wide range of well-honed business skills, a deep knowledge of fuels, combustion and environmental matters, and a comprehensive set of contacts in the energy scene worldwide.  My personal connections with IFRF date back to when I was the Programme Manager for the UK government’s Clean Coal R&D Programme from 1989 to 1998, when the UK supported some R&D work being undertaken at IJmuiden as part of the IEA Coal Combustion Sciences Programme – work that did much to assist industry to reduce its NOxemissions.  More recently, as Director of Technology External Affairs for Alstom Power (2009-2011) I followed IFRF’s research programme with interest and was also involved with many IFRF member organisations in collaborative RD&D activities in Europe, the USA, China, India and South Africa.  I look forward to getting to know you over the coming year in my new role!