Chemical Engineering Process Design I

Courtney Sterrick

Courtney Sterrick,
Senior, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Athens, OH 9 December 2014

One of my favorite classes this semester was Process Design I. In this required chemical engineering course, we learned about the typical approaches one takes to design a chemical plant. A major portion of the course was spent on identifying the best separation strategies for different combinations of chemicals based on their boiling points, solubilities, and other physical and chemical properties. We also focused on reducing the amount of energy required for a particular process as well as recognizing potential safety concerns.

This semester, our final project required us to design a chemical process using the reactant isobutyraldehyde to form methacrolein. Due to side reactions and excess reactant, a number of separation mechanisms were required to obtain essentially pure methacrolein. To test the success of various designs, we were required to use CHEMCAD, a chemical engineering simulation software. My favorite part of the project was identifying how to make the series of separations as easy as possible. It was a giant puzzle! In addition to separating the chemicals to achieve desired purities, we were also required to reduce the amount of energy to be supplied by utility streams.

Once the design was complete, a safety analysis of the proposed process was conducted. In this part of the project, we studied the flammability, reactivity, and health hazards for each chemical individually and combined. Operating pressures and temperatures, as well as other risks related to the process equipment, were also identified. This project was a great way to culminate the course; it combined the major learnings throughout the semester into a single assignment.

Despite being one of my most difficult classes while at OU, it has been one of favorites. I learned a lot throughout the semester and look forward to continuing the material in the spring in Process Design II.

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