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Robert White


I graduated with a 1:1 MChem with a year in the USA at the University ofLeicester in 2013. My main focus was Atmospheric Chemistry using a mathematical model of the Stratosphere and Troposphere to simulate emissions and chemical reactions.

PhD Project: How can we effectively convert biodiesel waste into substitute natural gas?
Primary Supervisor: Dr Valerie Dupont

Research Interests

My main research interests are in:

  • Aspen Plus Process Chemical Modelling
  • Reforming
  • Methanation
  • Biodiesel
  • Life Cycle Analysis
  • Biomass Gasification
  • Substitute Natural Gas (SNG)

Why I chose the CDT in Bioenergy

I chose to begin a PhD because of the enjoyment I get from writing and my obsession with transparency. Researching facts and the latest technologies and breakthroughs in energy gives me the opportunity to write convincing arguments. These facts often elude to the nature of products and technologies, allowing me to determine to what extent their qualities have been embellished! Resultantly, I have a penchant for uncovering where inlets of processes are obtained. When the environment is concerned, the means of producing and obtaining feedstocks for energy, is sometimes just as important as energy and emissions.
After working in the University of Leicester study abroad office I decided that I missed scientific work far too much! I decided to start a career in energy and the environment and ended up applying for the Bioenergy CDT. The CDT gives me the opportunity to apply my analytical chemistry skillset to investigate alternative renewable energy technologies.

I firmly believe that bioenergy can make a significant and sustainable contribution to the global energy mix. The ability to supplement fossil fuels and fit in with the fossil fuel infrastructure makes them attractive but also dangerous, because most bioenergy methods cause emissions. It is important to consider their environmental impact and to inform on sustainable management. This will provide us with the knowledge to avoid similar pitfalls from our fossil fuel era.
The two main attractions to the CDT were working in a team and the work placement opportunity. I believe that working in a team of like-minded people is the best way to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of arguments and my own work. The work placement provides an opportunity to gain industry experience and further narrow down the type of work I would like to be involved in for my future career.

The CDT so far

I have gained a wealth of skills and broadened my interests. In particular, I am transitioning from a chemistry background into a process engineer, immersing myself with the Aspen Plus process modelling application. My main aim is to create simulations that are as realistic as possible.
The team aspect has given me many opportunities to bounce ideas back and forth. Furthermore, the cohort has allowed me to vent any inevitable PhD frustrations and share in my successes.

I managed to publish my first article entitled “Direct Catalytic Methanation of Liquid Biomass Wastes” based on research carried out by myself and Hafizahin the magazine Gas for Energy.