Chemical Process Engineering: Design And Economics
Chemical engineers develop, design, and operate processes that are vital to our society. Hardigg* states: “I consider engineering to be understandable by the general public by speaking about the four great ideas of engineering: structures, machines, networks, and processes.” Processes are what distinguish chemical from other engineering disciplines. Nevertheless, designing chemical plants requires contributions from other branches of engineering. Before taking process design, students’ thinking has been compartmentalized into several distinct subjects. Now, they must be trained to think more globally than before. This is not an easy transition. One of my students said that process design is a new way of thinking for him. I have found it informative to read employment ads to keep abreast of skills required of process engineers. An ad from General Dynamics* in San Diego, CA, states, “We are interested in chemical engineers with plant operations and/or process engineering experience because they develop the total process perspective and problem-solving skill we need.”
The book is designed mostly for a senior course in process design. It could be used for entry-level process engineers in industry or for a refresher course. The book could also be used before learning to use process simulation software. Before enrolling in process design, the student must have some knowledge of chemical engineering prerequisites: mass and energy balances, thermodynamics, transport phenomena, separator design, and reactor design. I encourage students to refer to their textbooks during their process design, but there is need for a single source, covering the essentials of these subjects. One reason for a single source is the turnover in instructors and texts. Besides, it is difficult to teach a course using several texts, even if the students are familiar with the texts. Another objective of a process design course is to fill the holes in their education. This book contains many examples. In many cases, the examples are familiar to the student. Sources of process-design case studies are: the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) student contest problems; the Department of Chemical Engineering, Washington University, at St. Louis, Missouri; and my own experience.
I am fortunate to have worked with skilled engineers during my beginning years in chemical engineering. From them I learned to design, troubleshoot, and construct equipment. This experience gave me an appreciation of the mechanical details of equipment. Calculating equipment size is only the beginning. The next step is translating design calculations into equipment selection. For this task, process engineers must know what type and size of equipment are available. At the process design stage, the mechanical details should be considered. An example is seals, which impacts on safety. I have not attempted to include discussion of all possible equipment in my text. If I had, I would still be writing.
The book emphasizes approximate shortcut calculations needed for a preliminary design. For most of the calculations, a pocket calculator and mathematics software, such as Polymath, is sufficient. When the design reaches the final stages, requiring more exact designs, then process simulators must be used. Approximate, quick calculations have their use in industry for preparing proposals, for checking more exact calculations, and for sizing some equipment before completing the process design. In many example problems, the calculated size is rounded off to the next highest standard size. To reduce the completion time, the approach used is to purchase immediately equipment that has a long delivery time, such as pumps and compressors. Once the purchase has been made the rest of the process design is locked into the size of this equipment. Although any size equipment – within reason – could be built, it is less costly to select a standard size, which varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Using approximate calculations is also an excellent way of introducing students to process design before they get bogged down in more complex calculations.
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