GLOBAL megatrends have started to impact the energy landscape, in particular issues relating to security and sustainability.
Defined as the availability, accessibility, affordability, and acceptability of sustainable energy supply, energy security is uppermost in the minds of governments around the world.
It is also a key sustainability issue as expressed in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 7 – to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Energy sustainability is one of the most exciting postgraduate research themes in recent years – appealing to professionals in the energy sector as well as intellectuals keen to play a role in shaping and driving energy sustainability policy.
Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP), which offers 22 Masters and PhD programmes by research, provides an avenue for students to delve into the energy sustainability theme, and to contribute critical knowledge for industry and government.
The unique proposition of UTP’s postgraduate research courses lie in the clustering of research topics under two very topical themes.
Besides energy sustainability, postgraduate students also have the choice of exploring research under the theme of smart communities. Under each of these themes are multidisciplinary research institutes from which students pursue their research.
So unlike the conventional approach where the student undertakes research at a specific department or faculty only, at UTP, most of the postgraduate students pursue their research at research centres housed within the respective research institutes, which are made up of academic staff from various departments and faculties.
It will not be surprising for a postgraduate researcher to have one main supervisor and several co-supervisors, depending on the research area, leading to a more stimulating and collaborative research atmosphere.
The theme of energy sustainability encompasses the Institute of Contaminant Management (ICM) for Oil and Gas, the Institute of Hydrocarbon Recovery (IHR) for Enhanced Oil Recovery, and the Institute of Autonomous System (IAS) for Autonomous Facilities.
Prof Dr Azmi Mohd Shariff says each of the research institutes has its own mission and goals, which are tied to the theme of energy sustainability.
Prof Dr Azmi, who heads the ICM, says this research institute for instance, specialises in research and development (R&D) of efficient technology to monetise natural gas from unexplored gas fields due to high CO2 and H2S content – creating opportunity in these fields and taking the gas industry to greater heights.
The thrust of research under the theme of energy sustainability for ICM is to explore more challenging gas fields through advanced R&D to safely transport corrosive gas through pipelines, capture the contaminants such as CO2 and H2S, supply clean natural gas to end-users, and convert contaminants to value added products.
Researchers also look at enhanced oil recovery technologies for the depleted oil fields, and how digitalisation, smart software and computing are able to transform the oil and gas industries to deliver energy sustainability goals, says Prof Azmi.
“There are various opportunities for postgraduate research at UTP.
"If you’re doing fundamental research in the materials that can inhibit corrosion, for example, you’ll be working alongside other researchers undertaking corrosion studies.
"Our academic staff, 95% of whom are principal investigators that have secured research grants, have a close relationship with industry, so you’ll also be able to support the supervisor, and thus deepen your knowledge in prediction, carry out modelling and in-situ corrosion analysis.
“At the ICM we have up-to-date research facilities for modelling and simulation, fundamental, bench-scale and lab-pilot studies in all research centres. We also have large pilot facilities to carry out flow loop tests, prior to the more expensive field-testing.
“In addition, UTP also has world-class facilities with sophisticated R&D equipment, which students can access and utilise. Some of the state-of-the-art facilities at ICM include high pressure absorption system, compact ultrasonic absorption system, CO2 separation membrane unit, cryogenic packed bed, and gas hydrate kinetic reactor for CO2 capture studies; multiphase flow loop, thin channel flow cell, and high pressure-high temperature dynamic autoclave for corrosion studies; and flow assurance flow loop for flow assurance studies.
"Here, we can simulate the offshore-like environment - enabling us to predict the performance of the technology in the field. We can also imitate extreme field conditions at very high pressure and low temperature for various gas mixtures, ” he says, adding that this unique facility located within the ICM is industry-funded thanks to UTP’s close relationship with industry and trust gained to conduct and deliver the research projects up to industry expectation.
“We also have software such as COSMO-RS, Design Expert, Turbomole, Matlab, Aspern HYSIS, SAFETI and ANSYS CFD, on top of high-performance computers to support postgraduate studies in their modelling and simulation works.
“The conducive research and innovation ecosystem with well-equipped state-of-the-art facilities and world class researchers in the area related to oil and gas, renewable energy, and autonomous system, make UTP a partner of choice for research and innovation. Some of the reputable collaborators include Petronas, Sarawak Energy, Murphy Oil, PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) Thailand, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) Korea, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) UAE, Haliburton, and Shell, ” he adds.
Through these ties, postgraduate students can also expand their skills by supporting their supervisor to deliver industrial-based projects.
“Our academic staff at one of the research centres work very closely with the Department of Occupational Safety and Health and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in developing and upgrading guidelines, regulations as well as training materials for industries. So, students are not confined to the lab, but also gain exposure to working with government agencies and industry, ” he says.
Funding for research projects are also less of a challenge if you’re undertaking a postgraduate course at UTP because the majority of the university’s 380-strong academic staff are principal investigators who have secured Yayasan UTP, government, international or industry-funded projects.
These funds, ranging from a few hundred thousand to a few million ringgit, will directly support postgraduate students who are undertaking research aligned to the funded research project.
UTP also has a high ratio of international community amongst the staff and students, which provide students a unique global intellectual and cultural experience.
UTP also prides itself in the calibre of its researchers, some of whom, like Prof Azmi, are Fellows of Akademi Sains Malaysia, and have top invention prizes under their belt.
These attributes, along with UTP’s partnerships and linkages with foreign institutions also offer a richly rewarding learning experience for the postgraduate student.
For more information on UTP’s postgraduate programmes, visit www.utp.edu.my
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