Chemical plant



Founded A chemical plant is an industrial process plant that manufactures (or otherwise processes) chemicals, usually on a large scale. The general objective of a chemical plant is to create new material wealth via the chemical or biological transformation and or separation of materials. Chemical plants use specialized equipment, units, and technology in the manufacturing process. Other kinds of plants, such as polymer, pharmaceutical, food, and some beverage production facilities, power plants, oil refineries or other refineries, natural gas processing and biochemical plants, water and wastewater treatment, and pollution control equipment use many technologies that have similarities to chemical plant technology such as fluid systems and chemical reactor systems. Some would consider an oil refinery or a pharmaceutical or polymer manufacturer to be effectively a chemical plant.
A chemical plant commonly has usually large vessels or sections called units or lines that are interconnected by piping or other material-moving equipment which can carry streams of material. Such material streams can include fluids (gas or liquid carried in piping) or sometimes solids or mixtures such as slurries. An overall chemical process is commonly made up of steps called unit operations which occur in the individual units. A raw material going into a chemical process or plant as input to be converted into a product is commonly called a feedstock, or simply feed. In addition to feedstocks for the plant as a whole, an input stream of material to be processed in a particular unit can similarly be considered feed for that unit. Output streams from the plant as a whole are final products and sometimes output streams from individual units may be considered intermediate products for their units. However, final products from one plant may be intermediate chemicals used as feedstock in another plant for further processing. For example, some products from an oil refinery may used as feedstock in petrochemical plants, which may in turn produce feedstocks for pharmaceutical plants.
Specific unit operations are conducted in specific kinds of units. Although some units may operate at ambient temperature or pressure, many units operate at higher or lower temperatures or pressures. Vessels in chemical plants are often cylindrical with rounded ends, a shape which can be suited to hold either high pressure or vacuum. Chemical reactions can convert certain kinds of compounds into other compounds in chemical reactors. Chemical reactors may be packed beds and may have solid heterogeneous catalysts which stay in the reactors as fluids move through, or may simply be stirred vessels in which reactions occur. Since the surface of solid heterogeneous catalysts may sometimes become "poisoned" from deposits such as coke, regeneration of catalysts may be necessary. Fluidized beds may also be used in some cases to ensure good mixing. There can also be units (or subunits) for mixing (including dissolving), separation, heating, cooling, or some combination of these. For example, chemical reactors often have stirring for mixing and heating or cooling to maintain temperature. When designing plants on a large scale, heat produced or absorbed by chemical reactions must be considered. Some plants may have units with organism cultures for biochemical processes such as fermentation or enzyme production.
In the plant design, the units are sized for the maximum capacity each may have to handle. Similarly, sizes for pipes, pumps, compressors, and associated equipment are chosen for the flow capacity they have to handle. Utility systems such as electric power and water supply should also be included in the plant design. Additional piping lines for non-routine or alternate operating procedures, such as plant or unit startups and shutdowns, may have to be included. Fluid systems design commonly includes isolation valves around various units or parts of a plant so that a section of a plant could be isolated in case of a problem such as a leak in a unit. If pneumatically or hydraulically actuated valves are used, a system of pressurizing lines to the actuators is needed. Any points where process samples may have to be taken should have sampling lines, valves, and access to them included in the detailed design. If necessary, provisions should be made for reducing high pressure or temperature of a sampling stream, such including a pressure reducing valve or sample cooler.
As in any industrial setting, there are a variety of workers working throughout a chemical plant facility, often organized into departments, sections, or other work groups. Such workers typically include engineers, plant operators, and maintenance technicians. Other personnel at the site could include chemists, management/administration and office workers. Types of engineers involved in operations or maintenance may include chemical process engineers, mechanical engineers for maintaining mechanical equipment, and electrical/computer engineers for electrical or computer equipment.