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Chemical Engineering Trends, Intellectual Property Litigation, & Industry Predictions – Episode 50 [PODCAST]

IMS Elite Expert Terry Livingston explores current trends and future predictions for the chemical engineering industry, including green energy, biofuels, and intellectual property litigation. Listen, watch, and/or read the transcript below. (Part 3 of 3)

 

 

Hello and welcome to the IMS Insights Podcast. I’m your host, Adam Bloomberg.

Today, we’re speaking with IMS Elite Expert Terry Livingston about intellectual property disputes, future industry trends and challenges, and developing the chemical engineers of the future.

Terry Livingston is a chemical engineer with more than 20 years of experience in chemical plant design and operations. He has experience in oil and gas refineries, including the design of chemical and petrochemical manufacturing facilities. Terry’s experience also includes the storage and handling of chemicals, process-safety management, and process control failure.

Adam Bloomberg:

Let’s talk a little bit about emerging trends. What are some that you see in the field of chemical engineering?

Terry Livingston:

Well, there’s developments of new technologies, specifically for things like green energy. You mentioned automobiles. There’s a push. Even some states are really pushing hard now that they’re not going to be powered by petroleum in the future. They’re going to be powered by electricity. So, there is a lot of scientific push now to develop the very best battery technology that we have. And it’s changed. It’s really changed over the last 10 years, and it’s continuing to evolve. We have batteries now that we couldn’t dream of 30 or 40 years ago. The amount of energy that they can deliver. Technology of solar, of wind power, of synthetic fuels that are low carbon—even there’s a push now. Shell just announced recently they’re going to try to build in Louisiana a low-carbon petroleum refinery. When you think about it, a refinery handles hydrocarbons, but they’re going to develop a refinery that has very low output and usage of hydrocarbons to process the hydrocarbons. So those are avenues or new technologies or new industries that are being developed along the lines of green energy.

Adam Bloomberg:

Let’s drill down there a little bit when it comes to intellectual property disputes within them. And so, you listed them off pretty quickly, but why don’t I list it off and maybe you can explain it, the type of renewable energy and maybe the associated risks? So, let’s start with the really popular one now. I constantly get emails and knocks on the doors now about solar panels. It’s just like when your roof needs to be replaced after a really bad storm. Can you explain the technology behind that green energy, and the associated risks for intellectual property cases?

Terry Livingston:

Well, the solar technology is well developed among a number of countries. The chemistry behind the solar technology is pretty well developed. The issues with it are the fact that it’s intermittent. That is, if you’re going to apply solar energy, obviously a good portion of any 24-hour period is not producing. So, if we’re going to use solar energy on the electrical grids, we have to find a way to balance it. And that’s not easy because there may be parts of Arizona that do really well with it, parts of Washington state that do not. So how do we balance the electrical grid? And the same is true with wind power, how do we balance wind power so that when it’s being generated, it can be used where it’s needed to be used. That is not typically a problem with power plants who produce using petroleum or coal. They can produce around the clock, and they can supply the grid as they need to. With solar and wind, that’s not the case. And that’s something our country is really just beginning to grapple with now.

Adam Bloomberg:

Solar and wind, because they kind of go close together. What sort of intellectual property risk do you see or cases coming out of those two green energies?

Terry Livingston:

Well, obviously intellectual property on both of them, in terms of the materials that are used, the techniques that are used to deploy them, those particular facets, the chemistry of the solar cells as they can continue to be developed are going to be patented, or they’re going to be kept as trade secrets. With the wind power, in order to develop the turbines and develop the generators that go with those, right now are fairly energy intensive. To build wind-powered rotors takes a lot of energy and it actually takes petrochemicals to do that. So, struggling now to develop wind appliances that give us more energy than it takes to build it and to deploy it and to run it. I think we’ll continue to get better with that. But the intellectual property that goes with innovation of the solar chemistry and the construction and materials of the wind turbines are going to be two areas that are going to be very competitive.

Adam Bloomberg:

In our planning meeting, you mentioned another green energy, hydrogen. Why don’t you explain how that’s used and some issues that you see, or risks related to that?

Terry Livingston:

Hydrogen ultimately will be the holy grail. When we develop hydrogen technology, in particular, when we as humans have a catalyst that will let us economically split water into hydrogen and oxygen, then we have unlimited energies. And when we burn that fuel, we make water. So that will be ultimately the perfect fuel for humans in terms of impact on the environment because they will be none. But hydrogen does have risk. It is according to the National Fire Protection Association, near the very top, it is the second tier of explosive flammable materials. So, Ford, for example, has announced hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that they are developing, but we have to keep the passenger safe. We have to be able to contain the hydrogen and to use it in such a way that we don’t expose either the retail customer or the general public to the real risks of hydrogen.

Adam Bloomberg:

I was reading a few years ago that somebody had figured out how to use corn syrup in their car. Why don’t you talk a little bit about biofuels?

Terry Livingston:

Yes, that is a good example. Soybean oil is one in which there is a conversion synthesis method that you can divert it to an automobile fuel. And we as chemical engineers are on the cutting edge of developing those technologies. Exxon, for example, has a new technology in which they grow algae, and they use chemistry to convert the products of the algae into biofuels. And so those corn syrup, soybean oil, algae, these natural materials can be used in a chemical process and chemical reactors to grow the materials that are needed for these fuels. And they do have a much greener impact on the environment because the net carbon is not being increased. The organisms are taking carbon and fixing it from the air or from the soil or the water and the carbon that we’re releasing was already absorbed, whereas petroleum that we extract from below the surface of the earth that’s not been released. So that’s where the advantage of the biofuels comes from, is that there’s not a net release.

Adam Bloomberg:

So, how long until we have DeLoreans and time machines, like the movie Back to the Future?

Adam Bloomberg:

Yeah. What was that? A flux capacitor or something? Nuclear fusion that they used in that DeLorean?

Terry Livingston:

Yeah, that may be beyond the scope of my expertise.

Adam Bloomberg:

Oh, that’s great.

Terry Livingston:

Rolls Royce now has a new project in which they are developing a jet engine that runs on hydrogen as an example. So here is a cutting-edge fuel, and it may eventually be able to push petrochemicals, Petro fuels, out of the aviation industry.

Adam Bloomberg:

Wow.

Terry Livingston:

So that would be another advancement. The chemical engineering world is exploding with technology opportunities right now. And of course, with opportunities, there are challenges. And I want to touch on that before we finish up.

Adam Bloomberg:

Sure.

Terry Livingston:

How we get involved and even how legal firms get involved in that.

Adam Bloomberg:

Go ahead.

Terry Livingston:

Okay. One of the important things about the chemical industry and in my company, for example, is that we have a relationship. I had a law firm contact our company and say, “we want to be a part of your company, we want to help you in your day-to-day business.” So, we don’t have a pending case, we’ve never had litigation against my company, but they help us. We pay them a fee, and they will help us if we need to file a document, if we need to draft something, if we need an opinion on a contract. They’re involved in our day-to-day business, and they are reimbursed for that work. But at the same time, they’re getting to know our clientele, they’re getting to know the lexicon of our industry. We’re developing a relationship. So now if something were to come up, I would just naturally pick up the phone and call them, say, “Hey, I’ve got a bigger problem now. I need some help from you.”

And I’m surprised that more legal law firms are not involved in this relationship, this normal day-to-day relationship, rather than just the big phone call type of relationships, because I think it’s very healthy. It helps both firms, and it builds this bond so that when there is a really important need, it’s a natural go-to relationship.

Adam Bloomberg:

Well, maybe that’ll be developed as you talked about the future of chemical engineers and the industry is going to explode. I wanted to ask, as a parent of a high schooler who loves chemistry, what advice would you give to parents who are trying to help their kids see the possibilities of a career in chemical engineering?

Terry Livingston:

Give the children an opportunity to see chemistry and mathematics, not as a chore, but help them understand how important it is in our everyday world. The things that we have around us, our lives, even our human bodies, are chemical engineering masterpiece. We could spend a thousand years in Lawrence Livermore laboratory and Bell Laboratories and never make a human being. They’re marvelous. And so, for a child to have the sense of wonder about chemistry and behind me here is a chemistry lab that I was actually given as a child. And it really sparked my interest. I could do amazing things to create things that I didn’t know about. I didn’t understand how chemistry plays a part in our everyday life. So, giving them the opportunity. And I think, Adam, as a parent, you have to read their interest and you have to read their involvement. Some children will take to it very well and they just love it. Other children are more drawn to creativity, and they don’t want to take a problem and be a detective and smooth it out.

So, I think as a parent, you give them the opportunities. I think you give them a broad spectrum of opportunities and sort of observe where they’re talented, where they’re interested. And chemistry may be a part of it, but it might not be. But you give them a chance. Yeah.

Adam Bloomberg:

I’m curious to know, so how do you balance the work? You work at CQ Engineering; you work as an expert witness and you shared with me before, you’re a family man and you have a lot of friends and family close to you where you live. How do you balance that and your mental health?

Terry Livingston:

I entered into my work with the expectation that there’re going to be busy times, and it’s incumbent upon me to deliver to the client. I have had cases where I may get phone calls at 2:00 AM on Saturday morning, Sunday morning. I take those calls, and I address them and try to deliver to the very best of my ability by listening to the client and understanding what they need, what are they asking me for and deliver. So, I go into this work knowing there are going to be some very busy times, but also know that those come and go. And so, we do what we need to do, we deliver, and then we try to balance that by not getting too drawn. I don’t want it to be a way of life. That pursuit of work and money is everything in my all-in-all. I do the work that helps my clients win, but also know that I don’t want to over commit and do that all the time because I do have family and friends. And we’re fortunate here on the Gulf Coast to have wonderful outdoor opportunities and activities.

We’ve got water sports, golfing, fishing, hunting, so many opportunities here. It’s a beautiful part of the country. And just the sheer blessing of where we are helps to take some of the stress off. When you pay the price and do the work, there’s going to be some enjoyment comes after that.

Adam Bloomberg:

Terry, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

Terry Livingston:

Thank you, Adam. I appreciate the opportunity, and it was my pleasure.

Thank you to Terry Livingston for speaking with us today.

At IMS, we’re trusted to deliver consulting services to the most influential global law firms early with pre-suit and investigation services, then in litigation during discovery, arbitration, and trial. It’s been our privilege to serve our clients on more than 20,000 cases and over 2,000 trials. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast and join us next time on the IMS Insights Podcast.

© Copyright 2002-2023 IMS Consulting & Expert Services, All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 335
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About this Author

Adam Bloomberg Client Services Advisor IMS Consulting & Expert Services
Client Services Advisor

Adam Bloomberg, Client Services Advisor with IMS Consulting & Expert Services, has nearly 30 years of experience in litigation support and has consulted with hundreds of trial teams and corporate clients to develop communication strategies and presentations that educate, inform, and persuade. He creates materials and exhibits for mock trials, focus groups, arbitrations, and trials.

Adam has led trial and war-room technology and logistics efforts across multiple case types, such as toxic tort, product liability, financial, employment, transportation, and commercial. He has “hot...

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