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Process and Plant Design in Academia

By: , Posted on: April 10, 2015

sean moran students

An Applied Guide to Process and Plant Design addresses the shortcomings of chemical engineering education in general, and design teaching in particular. It is the book which I wish I had been able to buy when I was learning to be a process engineer. It addresses what David Goldberg has called the “Missing Basics of Engineering”.

I graduated in 1991 with an MSc in Biochemical Engineering, and went to work designing water and effluent treatment plants. I discovered that the things taught in university had very little to do with the practice of process plant design. Later I discovered that this is what everyone finds out, but that this information is not making its way back to academia.

I went into academia myself to try to bring an understanding of engineering practice to education, and I found out why the information had not been making its way back into engineering education. The understanding in universities of the nature and basis of engineering is fundamentally flawed -most academics think that engineering is just application of natural science and mathematics.

We are not however the “oompa loompas of science” as they imagine. Professional engineering practice involves far more creativity, intuition, and collaboration than partial differential equations, and Chemical Engineering is a kind of engineering rather than a kind of chemistry.

sean doodle

As proper design teaching and assessment is very resource hungry, its academic approximation has been optimised for reduced staff effort.  It bears no resemblance to its modern professional counterpart at all. The “design” practice taught in most universities is based not on practice, but in the staff’s research interests and outdated information on practice, based not in direct contact with industry, but in staff member’s recall of their own academic “design” experiences.

Academia consequently overemphasises the detailed “design” of unit operations, mathematical and computer modelling, natural science and primary research in a way which favours the scientific researchers who mostly staff our research intensive universities.Thus students come to think of design as an individual activity, where well defined problems are solved using established techniques with sufficient data. These are in short all of the things it is not about.

applied guide to process and plant designThis book is based on my professional design practice, and that of many other process design engineers across all sectors and worldwide. It explains exactly how to design process plants like a professional for students and early career designers. It also includes real world design examples which can be used by other educators wishing to follow the example of my realistic design teaching.

An Applied Guide to Process and Plant Design is available for pre-order on the Elsevier Store. Use discount code “STC215” at checkout and save up to 30% on your very own copy!

About the Author

sean moranProfessor Moran is a Chartered Chemical Engineer with over twenty years’ experience in process design, commissioning and troubleshooting. 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.

In his role as Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, he co-ordinates the design teaching program for chemical engineering students. Professor Moran’s university work focuses 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.


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Chemical Engineering

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