Process Plant Layout, Second Edition
WHAT KIND OF A BOOK IS THIS?
This book is, in essence, an encyclopedia and handbook of practical process plant layout practice. Its first edition, published in 1985, was written by a small committee, mostly of senior practitioners, and led by an academic researcher, Dr. John Mecklenburgh.
Although I spent some years in an academic role (at the same institution where Mecklenburgh worked before his premature death), I am a practitioner rather than a researcher and have personally designed and laid out many process plants. I nevertheless attempted, initially, to follow the lead of the first edition in offering academic references wherever possible to support the text. However, my literature review made it clear that this was not going to be possible in the vast majority of cases. There is simply almost no professionally relevant contemporary research in this area, and it is a long time since there has been any.
This book is therefore based upon my own professional experience and my own primary research into contemporary professional practice in process plant layout. It is a book about how to lay out a process plant as a professional plant layout designer would, and it is founded in the experience of very many such designers. Despite all of the scientific references cited in the first edition, professional experience was in fact the true source of its most useful and enduringly correct content, so this is less of a change than it might initially seem. Layout design is—and always has been—a practical, rather than a theoretical business.
WHY A NEW BOOK ON LAYOUT DESIGN IS NEEDED
An up-to-date and comprehensive book on layout design has been sorely needed for some time. Since the first edition of this book, few new texts have been produced in the area and layout design has been lost from many Chemical Engineering curricula. As a result, much of the knowledge of how to lay out process plant is presently in the heads of people nearing the end of their careers.
Good plant layout is, however, still just as important as ever. A study by Kidam and Hurme (2012) showed that 79% of process plant accidents involved a design error, and the most common type of design error leading to accidents was poor layout, as shown in Fig. 1.1.
My literature review identified very few recent research papers about plant layout of any use to practitioners. The first edition of this book was published at a time when layout designers such as Robert Kern were writing practical “how-to” articles on layout design and academic research in the area addressed practical problems. This is no longer the case and standard texts, such as Perry’s Chemical Engineers’ Handbook (Green & Perry, 2007), consequently still cite references from the 1970s in their sections on layout design.
It is my intention that this book should represent a detailed summary of current best practices in layout design, as it is practiced by process engineers, piping designers/engineers, and process/technical architects. This is the reason why there are no references to academic papers throughout the main text of the book. Layout design practice is based in codes and standards; and in design experience, modified to suit individual circumstances by multidisciplinary design review.
While, in researching the book, it became clear that much of the original content was still current, there have been some changes in layout design practice as a direct result of new IT and, to a greater degree, structural changes in industry and society caused indirectly by new IT.
There has also been a diversification of practice between industry sectors. In some cases, new design disciplines have emerged to support such changes, a development I will comment on later in this chapter.
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