Engineers in the Process Industries

February is the month to celebrate engineers and the engineering disciplines, with National Engineers Week taking place February 18-24. AMACS relies heavily on our engineering staff to design process internals for our customers, and we appreciate the ingenuity and tenacity they bring to every project. With Engineering Week upon us, we thought we would take a look at the role of engineers in the process industries.

What is Process Engineering?

A process engineer is tasked with the design, implementation, control, and optimization of a number of industrial processes. They often work in the spectrum of chemical, oil and gas, agriculture, mineral, food, medical, manufacturing, and biotechnological industries.

Process engineering reviews and delivers the processes and necessary equipment to turn raw materials into a desired end product(s). These products are generally used as part of the manufacturing process. The work includes but is not limited to:

  • Creating and setting specifications
  • Designing and developing processes
  • Procuring necessary equipment
  • Implementation of equipment including hardware and software
  • Monitoring equipment and processes
  • Documentation of all steps in the process
  • Refining parts of or entire process as needed

Process engineers are found in all stages of the manufacturing process, from designing processes for a brand new facility, to optimizing an existing plant or process. This in-demand work allows process engineers to work with every department from research and development to the plant owners.

Engineering Process Steps

Each plant and project is different. However, many process engineering projects utilize these steps.

  1. Design and creation of a block diagram that shows desired raw materials and transformations.
  2. Creation of a process flow diagram to outline material flow paths, equipment for storage, means of process, and flow rates. All connecting equipment, such as conveyors and pipes, are specified along with their contents and material properties. Factors such as the materials’ density, viscosity, pressures, allowable temperatures, and more are also taken into account.
  3. Creation of a piping and instrumentation diagram that details sizing for the desired flow rates. The diagram is used as a basis for developing the system operation guide that outlines the process’s operation.
  4. A proposed layout of the processes may be shown from above or the side. Other engineers may be needed, such as civil engineers for foundation design, concrete slab, structural steel, etc.

Process Engineers in Real World Applications

Today’s society has a zero tolerance towards incidents involving refineries and other plants where toxic or hazardous materials are processed. The regulations regarding refineries have drastically changed over the last 10 years, requiring many refineries to quickly adapt to these changes, whether they have the time and budget or not. Process engineers in this field are hired to study hazardous operations, management of change reviews, relief studies, as well as any other process involving safety or loss prevention. Deadline and budgetary considerations are taken into account as well to ensure the refinery meets regulations and can operate efficiently.

For more on process engineering, check out this video.

More on National Engineers Week

Engineer’s Week began in 1951 when the National Society of Professional Engineers wanted to ensure a diverse and educated engineering workforce. More than 55 years later, it brings together over 70 engineering, education, and cultural societies from over 50 corporations and government agencies. EWeek promotes recognition among the community to encourage students of all ages to consider and pursue a career in engineering.

To learn more, click on the official site.