Advice to New Refinery Process Engineers | RefinerLink

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Advice to New Refinery Process Engineers

By Patrick the Process Engineer

Jul 14, 2013

Congratulations to the new refinery process engineers! Refinerlink has come advice to help you get started.                               


Refinerlink would like to congratulate the Chemical Engineering class of 2013! We welcome all of you to the refinery community and hopefully to frequent readership here at Refinerlink.


Now that we got that nice positive out of the way (you’ll learn that positives should always come before negatives), I should be the first to tell all of you new process engineers

out there that you really don’t know anything.


Yes, you’ve shown your university that you can balance equations, calculate pressure drops, and even derive heat transfer rates. But really, you still have much to learn.



 We do not intend to give you a hard time, but to present these thoughts as points of consideration. The mistakes that you made in school only cost you a deduction on an exam . The mistakes that you make from here on out will cost your company real money, or worse, a real incident.


You can check out the Chemical Safety Board for eye opening examples. Sure you could say “that would never happen to me,” but don’t be so foolish. At Refinerlink, we’ve provided a reminder about the BP Texas City disaster and how to address abnormal conditions. Please don’t let us have stories to share about your refinery.


A generation ago, when new process engineers started out they were welcomed into an industry that had operators and engineers with years of experience under their belt. The industry was a little slower and less complex. Today you’re walking into an industry that is lacking experience as the Baby Boomers retire. The industry today is dynamic and very complex, as refineries struggles to compete in a global industry stacked against the United States. Refinerlink has created several blogs to help bring you up to speed such as Top 10 for New Process Eningeers and Distillation basics (Mr. Distillation and Mr. Distillations Troublshooting).


For the new refinery process engineer out there embrace the experience around you. There won’t be much experience to draw from. Look around, I’d bet the most experienced process engineer on your team has less than 5 years experience. Does your boss have more than 5 years, probably not? If your looking for information about things such as pumps, startup advice, or process optimization just check out Refinerlink blogs.


New refinery engineers should embrace the experienced operator, mechanic, or engineer at every chance you can get. Ask them simple and complex questions about their jobs. Don’t just ask them to solve your problems. The advantage and skills that you bring to the table are critical

to the overall success. Embrace your skills and energy along with their wisdom.  I love asking people about their biggest mistake and achievement.

I bet you can learn more from the mistake than the achievement.



Embracing the fundamentals is another important step for new refinery process engineer. Remember when you said “I never want to see another VLE equation again!,” well sorry but you signed up for this. New refinery process engineers should rely on the fundamentals, it’s the only thing you have. You don’t have years of actual experience so pull from your strengths.


New refinery process engineers can also make a huge difference by just learning the business. Learn how the entire refinery fits together. Learn how the refinery units are interdependent on each other. Learn how the refinery sources its raw materials and where the products go. Learn how your refinery measures its success. The new refinery process engineer won’t have that all knowing experienced engineer or manager there to help guide the business so its up to you to educate yourself.


The biggest risk the new refinery process engineer faces is getting lazy. You may think I’ve earned the degree and they’ve given me this fat paycheck I must be great. Well, sorry to tell you, but you’ve got a long way to go to start earning that paycheck.


Your refinery could hire anyone to trend a variable versus time and they would be a lot cheaper than you. Leverage the experiences you’ve learned from others along with the fundamentals you’ve learned to solve problems and create unique opportunities. Your refinery manager can find anyone to show them problems, be someone that can provide solutions.



Refinerlink is here to help the new refinery process engineer clase of 2013! We offer educational blogs, discussions, and career opportunities. We look forward to helping you maximize your career!  

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