PROCESS-SPECIFIC EXPERIENCE? WHY IT MAY NOT MATTER…
“So, how many methyl-ethyl-wonderchemicalate plants have you designed anyway? We need Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to design this process.”
Man, have we heard that before. No doubt, if you can find a whole design team of SMEs, that is normally a good way to go. But if methyl-ethyl-wonderchemicalate plants are hot, good luck getting that firm that has designed them all. If they are cold, that company won’t likely exist any more or never did. And there is one more thing.... We recently visited a specialty chemical plant that had hired an engineering firm that had designed (what they thought) was the exact same process before. Unfortunately they failed to take into account a small raw material change – and the new plant does not work :( So SMEs are not always the best way to go.
Instead of looking for SMEs, why not hire some PDEs (Process Design Experts)? We have designed hundreds of processes, and for the majority of these designs, we were looking at chemistry that was new to us. As PDEs, we have learned a number of things that allow us to effectively design a process without having to have years of experience with the specific process chemistry. Some of these include:
- Literature/internet research
- Bench-scale and/or pilot plant data analysis
- Experience with similar processes and/or chemistry
- Plant floor experience
- Using client SMEs
- Detailed process design basis development
Ahhh, the process design basis – that is the real key. We have learned over the years to put tremendous emphasis on this at the very front end of every design project. When the design basis is complete, we typically have the following information defined:
- Raw material specifications
- Plant capacity requirements
- Product specifications
- Critical plant operating parameters
- Available utilities specifications
- Individual unit operations performance requirements
- Process regulatory requirements
- All other operating goals and constraints desired by the plant owners/operators/engineers
We gather and document every applicable piece of information available before we start our process design. We believe that by using this rigorous method we would have caught that raw material change mentioned above.The fact is, with physical and chemical data for your compounds, we can design the process. And, while we would like to have your SME on the project team, we can work around this if one does not exist by using our vast design experience and some techniques we have learned over the years. So we say – try the PDEs, Process Engineering Associates, for your next process design. You’ll love the results.
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