Have you ever thought of an automobile’s engine? It’s the core of the system. Without it, the whole system is unable to reach its main objective, which is to drive. In oil and gas industry, process engineer acts as an engine for the entire team.

Most of the designs and calculations should be approved by process engineers. The reason is simple, because the initial basic design of overall plant and equipment is done by a process engineer. They are the starting and the ending point of a refinery or petrochemical plant. They produce the first data as a feed for other engineering departments such as piping, mechanical, instrumentation and civil . At the end, these modified data returned to process engineers again for review. Technically, in order to design, procurement, construct, run and control of a complex plant, engineers should work as a team. Each engineering topic has to be dealt with by the specialist. For example, Piping engineer designs piping system, supports, valves, isometric plan and so on. Electrical does the wiring protocols, electrical device consideration and so more. Instrumentation, alongside with Automation, design the field instrument devices, the distributed control system, etc.

A process engineer should have a minimum information in all fields. He is the one who reviews and bridges most of the technical documents together. Therefore, it requires a huge amount of theoretical information as well as practical experience.

Oil & gas is one of the most precise and disciplined industry. There are tons of detailed design criteria and standards. Process engineer’s task is to follow all of them carefully in order to achieve an efficient and spotless design.

Process engineer main tasks

The main tasks of process engineers, which are almost unique to them, are listed below:

  • Static and dynamic simulation and optimization
  • Equipment design and sizing such as drum, pressure vessel, column, chemical reactor, shell & tube heat exchanger, air-cooled heat exchanger, plate and frame exchanger, storage tanks, tower internals (trays)
  • Process drawing and datasheet preparation including process flow diagram (PFD), piping and instrumentation diagram(P&ID), utility distribution diagram(UDD), alarm & setpoint list, cause & effect diagram, project design basis, heat & material balance (H&M), emergency shutdown logic diagram(ESD), process line list and process equipment- instrument datasheet.
  • Safety analysis and design such as flare network, relief loads & scenarios, pressure safety valve (PSV) and blow down valve (BDV)
  • Process control techniques & strategy including plantwide control, controller design or selection, PID parameters tuning, advanced control methodologies.
  • Pipeline hydraulic calculation, pipe sizing and flow study
  • Energy integration (pinch) definition
  • Vendor’s data review & comment

Process engineer general knowledge

Apart from above list, process engineers have to be familiar with the following issues:

  • Thermodynamic principles
  • Rules for accurate diagram preparation and drafting
  • Gas & steam turbine power plants
  • Field instrumentation types & consideration
  • Material specifications such as stainless steel 304/ 316
  • Pump & compressor selection & calculation including lube oil, mechanical seal, bearings and cooling system
  • Valves & control valves selection & calculation
  • Overall piping components selection
  • Boiler & burner system working principle
  • Steam generation and water treatment
  • Fire & gas detection and prevention
  • Corrosion chemistry and prevention
  • Membrane & filtration technology
  • Painting & insulation specification
  • Catalyst specification and maintenance
  • HSE consideration including zone & division classification

Consequently, a real process engineer loves his job. It’s one of the most important factor to achieve success in this field. They are so eager and curious in learning technical subjects and experiencing new areas of industry. The truth is the more we go deep down in learning engineering stuff the more we realize we are still at the beginning.

Note: Information presented in this article is the most common practice in many companies. However, it’s possible for a corporation to differ in some parts to some extent.