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Headshot of Dr. Mahmoud El-Halwagi with a red boarded that says "Texas A&M Engineering" on the right side.
Dr. Mahmoud El-Halwagi has been named the 2022 Trevor Kletz Merit Award recipient. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

Dr. Mahmoud El-Halwagi has been recognized for his contributions to chemical engineering by being named the 2022 Trevor Kletz Merit Award recipient.

“The award itself is quite an honor to be given,” El-Halwagi said. “I have been really fortunate enough and blessed enough to receive several other prestigious awards; every one of them came to me as a surprise as well as a great honor, and it's a humbling feeling.”

The award is named after Dr. Trevor Kletz, a British engineer who pioneered the conceptualization and practice of important aspects of chemical engineering safety, as well as inherent safety. To be recognized for this award, the recipient has to have made significant contributions to engineering advancement in the form of education, research or service activities related to process safety concepts and/or technologies, according to the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center (MKOPSC) website.

“My driving force is to try to make my little contribution in making the world a better place and some of the responsibilities that engineers must carry, especially chemical engineers,” he said. “We are responsible for the production of almost everything you see around you.”

For 39 years, El-Halwagi has been a chemical engineer and has been in academia for 33 of those years. He is holder of the Bryan Research and Engineering Chair in Chemical Engineering and the managing director of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s Gas and Fuels Research Center, as well as a professor in the Texas A&M University’s Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering.

“Dr. Kletz started his research at a time when safety was not considered to be an important aspect in the design of chemical processes,” El-Halwagi said. “His approach was that we can actually prevent and mitigate most of the risks if we start with a design that is inherently safer.”

El-Halwagi received the award in October 2022 from the MKOPSC. The center was established in 1995 in memory of Mary Kay O’Connor, an operations superintendent who was killed in an explosion in 1989 at the Phillips Petroleum Complex in Pasadena, Texas.

 “This is the premier center for the area of process safety,” he said. “In the past, most of the recipients actually have been prominent names from around the world. I am truly honored and humbled to receive this award.

El-Halwagi’s research areas consist of the process design of industrial operations.

“I focus primarily on a couple of things: sustainability and system integration, which is to put everything together to have a holistic view of any industrial operation,” he said. “I've always believed that sustainability in the traditional way involves three components: the economic component involves the environmental component, and it involves the societal-associated component.”

 Although sustainability has been El-Halwagi’s general area of research, his application studies include energy systems and green energy carriers, hydrocarbon processing, chemical process industries, integrated biorefineries and industrial ecology.

Part of El-Halwagi’s belief in sustainability is that a safer process is more sustainable because it mitigates potential disastrous consequences associated with the safety systems that can occur if not properly in place, such as fires, explosions and leakage of hazardous chemicals.

“I have spent my career trying to enhance the responsible design of industrial processes, making them more sustainable, work better, cheaper, faster, greener and safer,” he said. “We are chemical engineers; we are key to making the world a more sustainable place and to offering future generations the opportunities to grow and prosper.”