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Process Design of Water and Effluent Treatment Plants

By: , Posted on: December 11, 2017

An Applied Guide to Water and Effluent Treatment Plant Design

I’m just finishing my third book, An Applied Guide to Water and Effluent Treatment Plant Design. What qualifies me to write yet another book on water process plant design, in a market seemingly saturated with tomes on the subject?

Well, firstly, there are my qualifications and experience as an engineer. I graduated in 1991 with a Master’s degree in Biochemical Engineering and found myself specializing almost exclusively in water and effluent treatment plant.

I worked for several specialist design and build contracting companies before becoming an independent consultant in 1996. Since then, my focus has been on water treatment plant design, commissioning, troubleshooting and forensic engineering.

This last activity – acting as an expert witness in many legal disputes and several court cases where plants do not work – has opened my eyes to many of the common mistakes made by plant designers, perhaps even more so than the plant commissioning process itself.

The key way, in my experience, to guarantee a poorly operating plant is to dispense with the process engineer completely. Other popular ways include:

  • Assuming that anyone with a degree in engineering is an engineer. Fresh engineering graduates are not engineers yet and therefore require close supervision by a professional engineer
  • Lack of clarity on who is responsible for process design
  • Failure to manage the design process. Active management and formal quality control are required to produce a good design
  • Failure to manage the construction and commissioning process. Active management and formal quality control are also required to build a good plant
  • Failure to manage operation and maintenance properly.

The main source of my professional knowledge – other than learning from others’ mistakes – has been access to the design manuals held by the various companies I have worked for. Whilst these are jealously guarded commercial secrets, they share many common features. They all contain a core of information which may not be in the public domain, but is common knowledge amongst experienced professional process design engineers.

The second key qualification I have for writing this book is my experience in teaching and training engineers. I have been training other professional engineers around the world to understand water and effluent treatment plant design for more than twenty years.

As a result, I know how (and how not) to go about designing cost effective, safe and robust water and effluent treatment plants. I also know which parts of the discipline are most challenging for the various types of engineers and scientists in various sectors who need to understand or undertake the design of such plants.

For example, many civil engineers have difficulty with chemistry, chemical engineers commonly flounder with biology, and scientists have trouble understanding the difference between engineering and science. Process engineers from other industry sectors are often unfamiliar with water chemistry as well as open-channel hydraulics, far more important in water treatment than in other areas of process plant design.

I have been teaching realistic process plant design in academia for some time, and most of my design examples have been water and effluent treatment plants. I know what beginners to process plant design find difficult; a subject I covered at a generic level in my first book, An Applied Guide to Process and Plant Design. Absolute beginners to water and effluent treatment plant design might find it useful to read both books, as I do not repeat very much of what is there in this book.

This book is not intended to cover every aspect of the discipline. Instead, I have focused on those aspects which I had to learn from more experienced engineers in order to design a working water treatment plant. There isn’t much in here which you can simply Google.

The text is based upon my personal experience and that of my collaborators, upon published codes and standards, and on those parts of in-house design manuals which are too commonly replicated for anyone to reasonably consider them company-specific knowhow. My sources for most of this material themselves came without formal attribution. I asked a more experienced engineer how to solve a problem, and they told me, or gave me a many-times photocopied piece of paper with a graph on it. Such is the nature of know-how.

This book is intended, like my first one, as a substitute for a knowledgeable mentor, willing to freely disclose the core knowledge of the discipline that so many of us like to keep to ourselves. It is written in an informal style appropriate to interactions between mentor and mentee, but the informality does not imply lack of rigor. As with all my books, the content has been validated by review by other experienced engineers.

In short, this is the book I wished I could have bought when I started in the sector.

Read more articles from Sean Moran, The Voice of Chemical Engineering

About the author

sean moranProfessor Sean Moran is a Chartered Chemical Engineer with over twenty years’ experience in process design, commissioning and troubleshooting and is regarded as the ‘voice of chemical engineering’. He started his career with international process engineering contractors and worked worldwide on water treatment projects before setting up his own consultancy in 1996, specializing in process and hydraulic design, commissioning and troubleshooting of industrial effluent and water treatment plants.

Whilst Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, he coordinated the design teaching program for chemical engineering students. Professor Moran’s university work focused on increasing industrial relevance in teaching, with a particular emphasis on process design, safety and employability.

Connect with Sean on LinkedIn here, check out his Facebook page here and stay up-to-date on his thoughts, research and practice at his personal blog here.

Sean’s latest books are also available to order on the Elsevier Store. Use discount code STC317 at checkout and save up to 30% on your very own copy!

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