My career: Bo Chen

Bo Chen, Group Research engineering advisor and BP-MIT relationship manager, based at the BP Bioscience Center, talks about her passion for science and engineering and the opportunities that BP has brought her

As a Group Research engineering advisor, it’s my job to support the entire Group Research portfolio. This means I’m on hand to advise on engineering issues and the economic viability of projects. My focus is split between two areas: using science to develop long-term technology options (such as renewable plastics and renewable lubricants) to enable future business growth, and finding fresh solutions to help all parts of BP to rise to more tactical engineering challenges (such as corrosion, waste water treatment, and souring).

At the moment, I’m based in BP’s Bioscience Center near San Diego in California, so, naturally, a lot of my activities are linked to bioscience projects. I’m currently involved in exploring opportunities to develop novel molecules from renewable sources that offer better product properties, such as plastics and lubricants, and have contributed to addressing strategic questions related to carbon and environmental issues.

Together with the five other Group Research advisors and my fellow university relationship managers, I’m responsible for ensuring that we are selecting the right research activities to support BP’s strategic objectives, and that the research partnerships we have with universities around the world are properly funded and coordinated.

Since last year, I’ve been specifically responsible for managing BP’s relationship with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I work with an executive sponsor, Morag Watson, vice president of digital innovation, to manage a multi-faceted, multi-million-dollar research programme.

I joined BP as a research engineer in 2001, after a five-year PhD programme at MIT, which included brief spells with GE and Cargill Inc. Then, I worked for BP’s PX Technology business (PX stands for paraxylene, a chemical used in the production of purified terephthalic acid, or PTA, used to make products such as polyester) for three years, before becoming a senior research engineer with BP’s PTA business.

In this role, I also initiated the first collaboration with a Chinese university in PTA technology, which helped to build BP’s understanding of the PTA competitor landscape in China, including the technologies used and costing our competitors’ propositions.
In 2008, I joined BP Biofuels as principal engineer, spending two years developing process models for the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant, in Highlands County, Florida, and acted as Biofuels technical lead, in collaboration with partners.

I moved to San Diego in 2011 and worked as Biofuels technology manager. In this role, I built and led the process modelling and process integration team and established BP Biofuels’ bioengineering capability, offering technical engineering support to three Brazilian sugar mill operations and the Vivergo wheat-to-ethanol plant in the UK.

In 2014, a year before I moved to my current position, I was named as BP Alternative Energy advisor, process design and integration—the first and, so far, only technical advisor in AE. I led the team that provided process design, integration, and cost of goods sold analysis and I was the chief engineer for the development of three generations of cellulosic biofuels production process designs and technology licencing packages.

In 2014, a year before I moved to my current position, I was named as BP Alternative Energy advisor, process design and integration—the first and, so far, only technical advisor in AE.

I led the team that provided process design, integration, and cost of goods sold analysis and I was the chief engineer for the development of three generations of cellulosic biofuels production process designs and technology licencing packages.

Develop trusting relationships, build a strong track record and always deliver!
Bo Chen, Group Research engineering advisor and BP-MIT relationship manager

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