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Top 10 for New Refinery Process Engineers

By Patrick the Process Engineer

Dec 01, 2014
 

Process Engineering advice for new refinery process engineers.

 
 

1. Know the real hazards in your plant

 

Is there a high concentration of H2S? Look for mechanical and structural hazards. Don't be the rookie engineer that gets hurt doing something silly. This isn't a game anymore; real injuries happen if you are careless.

 

2. Know and respect the operators

 

They have real and valuable experience in your unit. Generally, you are not the operators’ boss. Engineers and operations are a team you need to give as much as you take. Talk to the operators: know what they feel is their most important duty and what their biggest hassle.

 

Utilize all this information to educate yourself, but also look for ways to make their jobs easier. Are they utilizing the most efficient tools (mechanical or computer), do they have a lot of menial data entry? Be a solution not a problem.

 

Caution!! In a union plant you need to be sensitive to union concerns. Approach the head operator and tell them what you are trying to do.

 

 

3. Get in the plant!

 

Hear it, feel it, smell it. Be visible in the control room and in the unit, but don't just hang out, have a mission. Know what the outside operators do everyday: review their daily rounds, know what measurements they are taking, and where that data is going.

 

4. Know the process

 

Chemistry, important feed properties, critical operating parameters, and product specifications. After all, that's why you went to school. Once you’ve identified those key properties, parameters, and specifications understand why they are important.

 

5. Know the utility systems for the unit

 

How does the unit get heat, cooling, and water? Know the normal input conditions and their sources.

 

6. Know the process control for the unit.

 

If it has advance DMC, understand the control and manipulated variables and how to analyze and visualize the data.

 

7. Know the economics

 

Understand what drives the purpose of the unit and the economics for the unit's separations. Is the propane and propylene separation important? What about hydrogen in fuel gas? Or nitrogen into FCC feed?

 

8. Understand the emergency procedures

 

What are the most important safety steps if you lose hydrogen, steam, cooling, or electricity?

 

9. Know your support

 

Which operator, engineer, or process expert to ask for help?  Have them on speed dial!

 

10. Be fluent in the mechanical aspects of the plant

 

It is important to understand the key mechanical aspects of the unit: piping, valves, pumps, compressors, etc.

 
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  • Thomas Holz :   I like how safety is #1, and then giving Operators respect is #2. Very well said!

    Feb 14, 2012

  • Lionel Sheikboudhou :   Know the PIDs

    Feb 21, 2013

  • Rohan :   Spend a 4 weeks doing a shift rotation (day, afternoon, nights etc). See what they really do, see the problems and frustrations they face, see what works well and what doesn't, and get to know the operators personally. It was the best thing I ever did, paid dividends for the next 15 years.

    Dec 05, 2014

  • John Ward :   This is great advice that I wish I had when I started as a Process Engineer. I also recommend advice given in Norman Liberman's book, Troubleshooting Process Operations, especially Section 5, The Processe Engineer's Job.

    Dec 10, 2014

  • JianWu Pu :   This is great advice and what I want to share with my group process engiineers.

    Dec 10, 2014

  • Thomas Mashapa :   # 2 is the most crucial (after safety of course). Being humble and considerate will almost always get you the RIGHT information from the plant custodians when it is critically required.

    Dec 17, 2014

  • Agus Darwanto :   Might be added : Always observe and record any important events in refinery process and how to solve it, and then evaluate and establish the procedures to be used in the future when the incident occurred again

    Dec 30, 2014

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