You are Home   »   News   »   View Article

BP invests $100m in Manchester centre of advanced materials

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

BP is investing $100m in a new 'International Centre for Advanced Materials' at the University of Manchester, UK, to help go into deeper waters

BP has announced plans to invest $100m in a new 'International Centre for Advanced Materials' at the University of Manchester, to develop materials to help drill in high pressure and high temperature, go further deepwater, reduce the weight of platforms and reduce corrosion.

The announcement was made by George Osborne, the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer (2nd most senior politician in the UK after the Prime Minister), at the British government's Energy Summit at the 'British Business Embassy' during the London Olympics. He was joined by Bob Dudley, CEO of BP, and Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester.

Bob Dudley

'At the highest levels, this is about developing a new generation of technologies for the energy industry, for oil rigs, for platforms, for drilling rigs, for refineries, for pipelines, for wind turbines, for developing products for processing biofuels and many other applications,' said Bob Dudley, CEO of BP, at the launch.

'These new technologies are absolutely vital.'

'The starting point is the global demand for energy which is continuing to rise so rapidly. Last year it grew 2.5 per cent a year. On current trends, 40 per cent growth by 2030 - and the growth is coming mainly from emerging economies.'

'Looking ahead, we all want to see a world where everyone has access to energy that is produced and consumed safely, efficiently, sustainably and affordably.'

'The mix will shift over time to lower carbon energies no doubt. But fossil fuels are set to remain the main source of energy for many decades now.'

'Gas provides a cleaner alternative to coal for power generation and could make massive difference in places like china, India and Russia. Oil products do remain the most efficient transport fuels.
That little hydrocarbon molecule is such an efficient bundle of energy. And automobile engines are likely to be twice as efficient by 2030 as they are today.'

'Our analysis suggests there is enough energy resources to meet demand but the test of capturing and converting that resource in to useful products cost effectively is getting tougher and tougher.'

'They are the resources in deepwater where the reservoirs can lie over 6 miles below the seabed, at pressures and temperature well beyond the scope of any technology today.'

'That's why we've launched a project called called 20k - which stands for 20,000 psi - to create the production technologies we need and the industry needs.'

'That's why we need ICAM to feed in projects such as 20k.'

'In order to keep the world's wheels turning we need to go to new frontiers, and that's why we've decided to invest in a centre for advanced materials. A centre that can help us and the entire industry develop the materials that are going to be needed to aid and produce energy in very, very demanding conditions.'

'Our approach was to list out the specific areas of interest then go in search of the world's best experts and the very best facilities in those disciplines.'

Mr Dudley told Digital Energy Journal that he thought the new technologies would help BP drill in deeper water, and at much higher pressures, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, Azerbaijan, Angola, Brazil.

It would also help develop technologies to reduce the weight which needs to be carried on offshore platforms. If you can reduce the weight of a platform the economies of the platform will be transformed.'

'BP is going through a big transformation. 2010 was a year of crisis, 2011 was transformation, 2012 is milestones,' he said.

Coverage areas

Mr Dudley listed the following 6 areas BP wants to cover.

1) The structure of materials - what they are made of, such as alloys and ceramics

2) Smart coatings which for example can protect against corrosion, heat

3) Membranes which are semi porous materials like filters

4) Catalyst and energy harvesting to improve the efficiency of converting one form of energy to another.

5) Functional materials how they behave under various conditions

6) Energy storage. 'For example, to make available the power generated by wind turbines when the wind isn't actually blowing,' he said.

'The first of these 3 is material structures, coatings and membranes, are our initial focus with ICAM.'

Choice of university

'We conducted a global search and talked to a lot of very talented people around the world, focussing on those universities where we already had strong relationships, and therefore we already had a high level of trust,' Mr Dudley said.

'We decided to base the centre at a place which seemed to have a unique concentration of both talent and facilities, that's the University of Manchester.'

'The team at Manchester have world leading capability in areas such as metallic materials, anti corrosion coatings, nano science and materials chemistry.'

'They also have world class test facilities to see how these materials behave in very extreme conditions. '

'They have great expertise in monitoring equipment in situ to understand the process of corrosion and other damage. '

'We're also aware of Manchester's prowess as we support many research projects there already
Including a dedicated laboratory in science of corrosion.'

'As you may know Manchester's quality was highlighted 2 years ago when 2 of its experts won a
Nobel price for their work on the advanced material graphene.'

'In our selection process Manchester's capability was very rigorously examined among other world leading universities and institutions for their breadth of experience. "

'It was clear to us that this was the place to go.'

Other universities

BP has also signed 'framing agreements' with the University of Cambridge, Imperial College in London, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US, as part of the ICAM system.

The University of Manchester has been asked to be a 'hub' of a system involving these universities.

'We think that no one university can possibly be world leading at everything especially in the field of advanced materials,' he said.

'These are universities with which we already work closely, for example Illinois is part of the Energy Biosciences Institute.

'We will support the ICAM system with $100m over 10 years in addition to providing expertise on advanced materials it will create jobs, including up to 100 posts of graduates and 80 post doctoral fellows,' Mr Dudley said.

'It will become a centre of expertise that the government can call upon. I believe it will be an asset for Britain.'

Technology ownership

The universities will have academic freedom to publish fundamental science resulting from the BP-ICAM's work, while commercial agreements will cover specific technological applications of the work.

"The IP arrangements are being finalised but will ensure academic freedom of the researchers whilst delivering benefit to both BP and the universities from commercial exploitation of technologies developed through the BP-ICAM There is a potential for such technologies to have wider industrial applications outside of the energy sector," says a BP spokesperon.

"In other words, because BP is involved within the BP-ICAM itself, we'll get a head start on commercialisation of technologies coming out of the research. But we are expecting the research to come up with things of interest beyond just the oil and gas industry too."


'As a company, BP is a global player, we have big investments in North America, continental Europe and the emerging economies. But Britain remains our home, we are fortunate in that, Britain punches above its weight. It has great world class research capabilities attuned to the needs of business,' Mr Dudley said.

'That's why we spend 40 per cent of our R+D spending in the UK, roughly £400m a year.'

As Sir Paul Nurse the new president of the Royal Society said in his Richard Dumbly lecture, ''In the future we will not be able to compete on the world stage with low labour costs or by exploiting vast reserves of mineral resources. We will have to compete with our brains and with our science.'

'So that I think is a great opportunity for ICAM for Manchester, a British based research institute, to design and develop materials for use all over the world in many industries.'

Nancy Rothwell

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, said that universities in the UK are 'well recognised for their outstanding excellence in discovery, but we're often told that we're somewhat less adapt at application and providing solutions for global challenges.'

'There are concerns that British industry may not be investing as much as some of us would like in research and development,' she said.

'The announcements today counter both of those concerns.'

'The ICAM is particularly interesting because it is what we would call a truly interdisciplinary centre. It doesn't just build on strengths in one discipline, in engineering, but breadth of expertise across several partners, physics, chemistry, mathematics and even in my own area of biology.'

'Obviously the focus is on oil and gas, but I think the applications and implications will be much wider for the energy sector as a whole, but indeed also for transport, construction, communications, and even for medicine.'

'The University of Manchester has a long history in materials and engineering since in 1824 when the Manchester Institute was formed by local businessmen to provide training for young mechanics.
And so it is appropriate that a key feature of the ICAM is training the next generation of outstanding scientists and engineers.'

'We like the other partners have a long history of collaboration with BP. I want to acknowledge the depth of that collaboration. Not simply in the cutting edge science, but In supporting undergraduates, interns, post graduate students and indeed in providing wider education in science.'

Associated Companies
» BP
» University of Manchester

comments powered by Disqus


To attend our free events, receive our newsletter, and receive the free colour Digital Energy Journal.


A modern data platform to improve predictions and company performance
Jane McConnell
from Teradata


Latest Edition Nov Dec 18
Nov 2018

Download latest and back issues


Learn more about supporting Digital Energy Journal