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Part 1: Competency Report

Throughout my university experience I have had the opportunities to demonstrate all


five (A, B, C, D, E) competences through various projects, events, and programs. As a chemical
engineering student, most of the projects that I undertook were process design and design
projects, in addition to that, a business and sustainability project for second year, and numerous
labs conducted in the university. Alongside the works done in university, I also partook in a
12-week internship program with Group Technical Solutions (GTS), Petronas; a technical
consultant division of Petronas. Within GTS, I was placed under the downstream process
design department which allowed me to learn more about the technicalities of chemical
processes; the process that I was directly involved with was flaring but while conversing with
other professionals in the department, I was able to gain some knowledge on water technology,
boiler and pipeline designs, desulphurization, and liquefaction of natural gas. Aside from
technical knowledge, I also had a taste of how professional management was conducted. This
report will define the competences with regards to the UK-SPEC and Malaysia’s IEM criteria
and how the competence standards are demonstrated through my experiences ever since my
enrolment as a chemical engineering student in Heriot-Watt University.
Competence A can be broadly defined as learning, understanding, and applying
engineering knowledge into optimizing existing and emerging technology. This was
thoroughly demonstrated through the projects conducted in university, for example in process
design A, my group and I had to discover a method to produce biomethane from biogas via
pressure swing adsorption. This project acted as a catalyst to our understanding of using
biomass as a feedstock and the pressure swing adsorption unit. Production of methane was
much more easily done through the separation of natural gas because it is quicker; producing
biogas from anaerobic digestion of agricultural wastes takes much longer and from then, the
methane can be separated from biogas by using zeolites in a pressure swing adsorption unit.
The investigation into this technology allowed me to have a stronger grasp on environmentally
sustainable process for methane production. Through this project, I learned about the
importance of methane gas in the energy industry and is emerging in the transportation
industry. Understanding the importance of a chemical whilst working with it was paramount
to the project; learning about the physical and chemical properties to optimize the separation
process was set as a priority so that the project can go smoothly. As a team, we had to research
firstly about the generation of natural gas from agricultural wastes and which method produces
the highest methane concentration but is simultaneously feasible, secondly, we had to research
about the nature of their movements (for transportation through pipelines and storage), and its
separation via the pressure swing adsorption. The engineering knowledge applied in this project
was simple process engineering, heat transfer, and mass transfer. Production of methane
through natural gas extraction has been a conventional technology for decades but through
anaerobic digestion and pressure swing adsorption, agricultural wastes can be used as a
feedstock and lower operational costs for the separation process as the pressure swing
adsorption unit consumes less energy than a cryogenic distillation column to extract methane.
This project didn’t just optimize the process in terms of energy consumption but also uses a
more sustainable feedstock. Another aspect of engineering that was required for this project
was the process of adsorption; a pressure swing adsorption unit conventionally uses two
columns, one for adsorption and another for desorption- the efficiency of the unit highly
depends on the pressure ratios and the adsorbents used. By studying different types of zeolites,
its physical properties and adsorption capacities (through pressure isotherms), the most
effective one had to be chosen to remove H2O, CO2 and N2 from the stream- this is to isolate
methane and obtain purity higher than 99%. Alongside the process engineering required for
this project, I also had to learn and apply design knowledge through chemical and mechanical
engineering books to design a mass transfer and heat transfer equipment; for this project I
designed a shell-and-tube heat exchanger and a compressor. The two equipment I designed
helped optimize the methane separation process by ensuring that the biogas going into the
pressure swing adsorption unit is at the most optimum conditions for separation (pressure and
temperature). By applying mass and heat transfer engineering knowledge, the shell-and-tube
heat exchanger and compressor were designed so that the N2, CO2 and H2O were adsorbed
most efficiently by the adsorbents chosen. Another example of competence A can be found
during the Process Design B project; the main objective of this project was to find an existing
process and figure out methods of improving it, both in terms of process and economics. The
process chosen was production of ethylene from dehydration of ethanol. The objectives of the
project were to increase both quality and quantity of the product and increase profit by selling
by-products. In this project, two units were modified to achieve the objectives: firstly, to
decrease the number of reactors in the plant and increase the product yield by choosing a better
catalyst for the reaction, this resulted in a lower capital cost but a slightly higher catalyst cost,
secondly, to liquefy CO2 produced and sell as a by-product which will assist in increasing
profit. Through research and implementing general engineering understandings and
knowledge, the process of dehydration of ethanol into ethylene was optimized by lowering the
capital cost and increasing annual income. Process Design B was the perfect example of
competence A as it combines general and specialist engineering knowledge and it was applied
to optimize an existing technology.
Another competence standard I will be discussing is competence D “demonstrating
effective interpersonal skills”. Communication is perhaps the most important skill to have in
any professional field and I discovered this through my 12-week internship program at
Petronas. Although I was placed in the downstream process design department, the project we
handled highly relied on other departments such as process control, mechanical, and
simulation. It was paramount to be able to have in-depth discussions with the other departments
which required understanding of their jargons and technical terms. Fortunately, there were no
language barriers as everybody spoke English sufficiently, although some of the staff preferred
to converse fully in Malay. As a speaker of both languages, there were no issues switching
from one to another from time to time. Before doing any technical work, my supervisor and I
will discuss what is the most effective way to tackle the work; as an intern it was natural for
my supervisors to have authority over me because they are more experienced. This involved
lots of discussions and meetings with both my supervisors and members of other departments;
an example was the comparison between manually calculated mass and energy balance with
the simulation team; whether their numbers match. If there were ambiguities in some of the
calculations made, simulations, or equipment specifications, I had to contact the respective
personnel either through email or directly approach them at their offices. Through the 12-week
internship period, I managed to present myself to the company in a confident manner through
demonstrating effective interpersonal skills- mainly to compensate for my lack of engineering
experience.
In all engineering works, safety and integrity ware always regarded as the most
important aspects; competence E requires the candidate to demonstrate professionalism in
terms of commitment to professional standards, society, and the environment. Professionalism
can be demonstrated in numerous ways, one of them is complying with safety regulations when
conducting experiments in labs. Throughout my years in university, proper lab conducts were
always stressed before initiation of experiments. I must always have proper personal protective
equipment (PPE) such as a lab coat and goggles, safety shoes when dealing with heavy
machineries, mask and a pair of gloves when handling chemicals. These safety procedures were
adhered to every time I conduct an experiment in the lab. Through first and second year of
university, majority of the labs dealt with chemicals, so gloves, mask, and goggles were
required at all times. By wearing PPE, working with diligence and care, I demonstrated my
personal commitment to the safety standards of the lab, and through this, my professionalism
as an engineering student. Another aspect of competence E is demonstrating my obligation to
society and environment; almost all the projects undertaken in university had an aspect of
sustainability in them. When designing a processing plant in design classes, the main concerns
were always waste disposals such as waste water, acids disposal into the soil, CO2 emission,
and noise pollution. MEng Design Project A/B, we as a group decided to deliver our CO2 gas
emitted to offshore platforms for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and in another project, the CO2
was liquefied and sold to companies that manufacture and sell fire retardant products. Under
social sustainability, the projects also considered the employability of locals and improving
their social needs by providing opportunities to work in the proposed processing plants and
ensuring that the plants are placed a certain distance away from local towns- this was to avoid
noise pollution. These considerations were all theoretical as they were done in projects; real-
life examples include following the rules of conduct in four processing plants that I have
visited: KLK Oleomas, Yakult, Top Glove, and Petron. Each visit required the students to wear
hard-hats and surrender our cellphones. Rules of conduct also refer to professionalism whilst
conducting oneself in a sensitive area; by not touching anything that may burn or harm you,
not running, learning the fire exit routes, and to always follow a professional engineer. Through
these experiences, competence E was clearly demonstrated; professionalism and integrity were
conducted thoroughly by committing to technical, safety, and behavioral standards.
Part 2: Summaries of Guest Speakers
Three guest speakers will be chosen for the summaries: Firstly, Ir. Kenneth Yeoh is a
chemical engineer who focused his career on bettering the environment. The reason I chose to
write about Kenneth is because of his commitment for sustainable processes and clean disposal
of wastes. These two factors are paramount for future generations as the wastes generated today
will negatively impact the future, and if the issue is tackled earlier, we will leave behind a
resourceful planet for the future generations to work on. Secondly, Rajeev Domble, an oil and
gas expert with 27 years of experience in the field. He thoroughly explained the risks related
to oil and gas projects, especially offshore projects, and its consequences; yet if those risks
were not taken, we would not have progressed to where we are today. He taught me that
calculated risks are necessary and if certain minor damages are inevitable, it is better to create
mitigation plans than to abandon the project wholly. Finally, I will talk about Prakash
Karunakaran who taught his audience not to just survive during our first jobs but to thrive by
identifying missing skillsets that graduates have and ways to overcome them.
Guest Speaker 1: Ir. Kenneth Yeoh (Chemical Engineering)
Ir. Kenneth Yeoh is a Professional Engineer, graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering
in chemical engineering, and an active environmental advocate. He is highly experienced in
managing and leading engineering projects of different magnitudes, many of which involve
treatment and disposal of wastes. Some of the examples are wastewater/effluent treatment, air
pollution handling, and water engineering. His expertise is not limited to the technicalities of
engineering but also its management; Ir. Kenneth Yeoh has worked in planning, maintenance,
and operations of engineering projects. Furthermore, through his 13 years of industrial
experience, he is now able to give professional engineering consultancies for various
companies. Kenneth’s work mostly reflects competences C, D, and E as he is able to use his
interpersonal/communication and management skills in handling different projects. More so
towards competence E due to the environmental nature of his work. He fully utilizes his
knowledge and expertise to conserve the environment and in turn, the societies that dwell in it.
He also complies with environmental regulations and standards whilst conducting his work to
ensure that the wastes produced by process plants are disposed of properly. Kenneth also
stressed on the importance of practical design and how it can be implemented into his field of
work; for example, when choosing the materials for a disposal system or chimney, one must
be considerate in terms of surroundings and cost. Waste water treating may be handling
corrosive components and it is essential to choose the right materials and also install them
properly, in addition to that, he mentioned that chimneys should be designed at a height that is
considered safe for particulate dispersions. This application of engineering knowledge related
heavily with competence B as Kenneth is able to apply practical engineering knowledge to
solve engineering problems, yet simultaneously demonstrate competence E because he is not
neglecting his obligations to the environment. Ir. Kenneth Yeoh has inspired many young
aspiring engineers to pursue works that relies heavily with rules of conduct in preserving the
environment, combining both competences B and E, and with newer technologies and
engineering innovation, more processes can be optimized for wastewater treatment and air
pollution control can be implemented, ultimately creating a more sustainable environment for
future generations.
Guest Speaker 2: Rajeev Domble (Oil and Gas)
Rajeev possesses vast amounts of experience with regards to engineering, he took on
projects from almost all sectors such as downstream, upstream, petrochemical, pharmaceutical,
refinery, and even utilities. With 27 years of experience, Rajeev is an expert in the oil and gas
industry, providing his consultancies to all sorts of projects ranging from solving engineering
solutions to overcoming business obstacles. His past projects reflect most prominently on
competence C as he is both the technical and managerial consultant for various projects; he
assists companies on developing, leading, and directing new projects. Although Rajeev spoke
of technicalities of the oil and gas industry, he stressed deeply on health, safety, and
environment. This reflected on competence E as he is recognizing his obligations to the
environment and being in the oil and gas industry, it was not an easy feat. In all oil and gas
projects that he took, huge risks were the main concern; big risks are associated with huge
amounts of money; this in turn creates a loop of risks balancing between the likelihood of
failure and losing a massive amount of investments, and the project’s success and with it comes
a huge reward (profitability). Rajeev recognizes these risks as a threat but not impossible to
overcome. With proper application of engineering knowledge, practicality, and risk
assessments, Rajeev demonstrated competence B beautifully as he executes one project after
another; whenever a problem approaches he is able to assert leadership to his team (competence
C) and solve the issue together. Rajeev shared his 27 years of experience in the oil and gas
industry with us by an overview of the industry, exposing the large risks that exist in the
industry, and how to use engineering expertise to overcome it. His anecdotes with regards to
his experience perfectly embodies competence D as he is able to communicate with various
companies’ personnel from all kinds of backgrounds, and ultimately, have the ability to
reiterate his experiences to us students so we may be better informed of his profession.
Guest Speaker 3: Prakash Karunakaran (Thrive vs. Survive)
Prakash K.K. is the Custodian Engineer in Advanced Process Control department in
Petronas and is currently situated in Group Technical Solutions (GTS). His consultancies
specialize on maximizing economic profitability of complex processing facilities by combining
both technical and non-technical aspects of his expertise; included are plant technologies,
economics, instrumentation and control, modelling, and electrical and mechanical. With 25
years of experience in the oil and gas industry acting as the foundation of his career
(competence B), he emphasized that effective communication and interpersonal skills
(competence D) are perhaps the most important aspects above all as it relates to the
understanding of human behavior (people skills) and assisting in managerial level decision-
making processes. Prakash heavily discussed about the issue with graduates working their first
jobs; he listed fifteen gaps that graduates need to fill to thrive in their careers. Whilst interning
in GTS in the summer of 2018, I have learned that Custodian Engineer is the highest technical
position one can achieve and for many, this is the definition of success, but Prakash thinks
otherwise; he believes that every individual has his or her own definition of success and this
idea is crucial to an individual’s outlook on life. Serving as a technical consultant for the past
seven years, Prakash has demonstrated competence B rigorously, applying his engineering
knowledge to help local and international companies solve their engineering issues. As stressed
before, Prakash has always been more passionate towards the development of people, helping
more than 700 individuals with both engineering and non-engineering related training, as he
believed that it is the root of innovation and progress that will drive businesses forward. With
this, he inherits strong communication and interpersonal skills (competence D) and is actively
pursuing towards the nurture of future development; he is personally committed in moving
society forwards by sticking to his own professional standards (competence E).