Professor Geoffrey Maitland CChem FRSC
Winner: 2021 Award for Exceptional Service
Imperial College London
For outstanding service to the Royal Society of Chemistry through our publishing activities and governance groups.
Celebrate Professor Geoffrey Maitland
The common thread running through Professor Maitland's research has been measuring and modelling the thermodynamic and transport properties of fluids. In his early academic career this was focused on using them to understand the forces between molecules and predicting these properties under extreme conditions. When moving into the oil and gas industry in 1986, he extended his research, designing more complex fluids, based on polymers and colloids, for oilfield applications such as drilling wells and production enhancement.
Since 2005, his research at Imperial College London has concentrated on how we can continue to use fossil fuels for most of this century without causing catastrophic climate change, particularly through carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS). CCUS is growing rapidly across the world and will be an essential technology for achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with about 10 gigatonnes of CO2 needing to be stored every year until we stop using fossil fuels.Read winner biography
Geoff Maitland is Professor of Energy Engineering at Imperial College London (ICL) and a Past President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (2014–15). He was a Trustee of the Royal Society of Chemistry and Chair of the Publishing Board (2016–2020).
His career has spanned academia and industry, including 20 years in oil and gas with Schlumberger and over 20 years at ICL, first as a young lecturer in 1974 and then, since 2005, in his current post. For many years his research has been centred on how we can continue to use fossil fuels for most of this century without causing catastrophic climate change, particularly through carbon capture and storage (CCUS). He has chaired several CCUS reports and was a member of the 2018 UK Government CCUS Cost Challenge Taskforce.
He has published over 150 papers in scientific literature, four books, numerous book chapters and achieved 10 granted patents. Geoff was awarded the Hutchison Medal by the Institution of Chemical Engineers in 1998 and served as President of the British Society of Rheology from 2002–2005. In 2006 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He was awarded the IChemE Chemical Engineering Envoy Award in 2010 for his media work explaining the engineering issues involved in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. He chaired the post-Macondo review of the UK Offshore Oil and Gas Regulatory Regime in 2011 (‘The Maitland Report’) and, in 2012, received the Rideal Lecture Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry. He was appointed CBE in the 2019 New Year Honours List for services to Chemical Engineering.
How did you first become interested in chemistry?
Through working in the lab in vacations in my early teens at the ceramics company that my father worked for, in Stoke-on-Trent, the Potteries.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in chemistry?
If you want to change the world and have a skill set that can be used anywhere, go for it – and do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone as your career develops.
Why is chemistry important?
Because it underpins both biology and the material world so the understanding and the building blocks it brings facilitates all human discovery and improvements to the quality of life.
What has been a highlight for you (either personally or in your career)?
Working with such creative colleagues in both academia and industry, and being made CBE for just doing what I really enjoy.
What has been a challenge for you (either personally or in your career)?
Learning that to make a difference with science and engineering is difficult unless you also understand marketing and policymakers – game-changing technology is necessary but not sufficient.
What does good research culture look like/mean to you?
It is collaborative, inclusive, looks across discipline boundaries and embraces the unexpected.
How are the chemical sciences making the world a better place?
By providing the molecules and understanding which are enabling increasingly smart solutions to societal grand challenges in healthcare, energy, materials, food and agriculture, water, sustainability and the circular economy – and contributing to all the UN Sustainable Development Goals.