Friday, 19 June 2015

Process Plant Design: Layout and the Role of the Process Engineer

Work on Mecklenburgh's Process Plant Layout 2nd Ed continues, and the picture of how the process of process plant layout works nowadays is firming up.

I have interviewed almost thirty people with extensive experience of process plant layout, and it is very clear that there are three or four approaches led by three or four different disciplines.

Different sectors place different disciplines in leading and supporting roles. Pharmaceutical plant layout is for example often led by process architects nowadays, but the oil and gas sector places piping engineers at the centre of the design process. Other sectors make no use of process architects or piping engineers at all.

The common factor in everyone's approach is the role of the process engineer. Very few people try to lay out a process plant without continuing input from a process engineer.

I'd have said "No-one tries to..." if I hadn't done an expert witness job recently overseas for someone who tried to dispense with the process engineer in the design process. It didn't go well for them.

None of the three or four disciplines usually involved are aligned with what passes for research into plant layout in academia, and no-one in academia (other than me) is teaching plant layout to process engineers nowadays.

Plant layout is the most obvious casualty of the disconnect between academia and practice in Chemical Engineering. Perhaps an up to date textbook might help to bring it back.

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