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What Are the Important Sciences for Process Operators/Technologists

  • 1.  What Are the Important Sciences for Process Operators/Technologists

    Posted 02-10-2019 19:30

    For process operators/technologists, what are some specific topics that provide an elementary understanding and basic familiarity with the science of process operations?  Granted, almost any topic of chemistry is important, so those may be omitted.


    Please refrain from broad subjects like "physics" or "math."  I suggest using topics such as: algebra; electricity ( E=IR); energy balances; fluid mechanics; gravity; gas laws (PVT); heat transfer; light (spectrum, refraction, reflection, etc.); magnetism; mass transfer (diffusion, distillation, "sorption"); material balances; motion (Newton's laws of, F=MA); momentum; phase equilibria; thermodynamics (work, heat, enthalpy, entropy, etc.); vectors; vibration (waves and sound).


    Some of the above topics along with many others are considered to be "physics" but generally are not relevant to process operations.  Please exclude them.  Additional topics will be greatly appreciated.  Ranking from most important to least important would be nice, but not necessary.  Think of the subjects which would make a better process operator/technologist including the ability to communicate with chemical engineers.

    T. David Griffith, Ph.D.
    Blessing (Bay City), TX

  • 2.  RE: What Are the Important Sciences for Process Operators/Technologists

    Posted 02-13-2019 23:24
    To give an example, I believe the important science topics that process operators/technologists should have a basic understanding are 1) thermodynamics, 2) material balances, 3) energy balances, 4) heat transfer, 5) fluid flow/mechanics, 6) phase equilibrium and 7) mass transfer.

    That basic understanding does not mean the use of calculus.  There are many concepts which can be understood by the application of good, old arithmetic.

    T. David Griffith, Ph.D.
    Blessing (Bay City), TX

  • 3.  RE: What Are the Important Sciences for Process Operators/Technologists

    Posted 07-12-2019 09:00
    Everything boils down to physics, chemistry, and human relations:)    Having said that, I believe fundamental operator training should include the following (excluding the safety training & particular chemistry of your business):
    - Fundamentals of temperature & pressure measurement.
    - How a pump works.  Which is discharge, which is suction.  How to troubleshoot common pump problems.
    - Common process equipment (check valves, manual block valves, control valves, Drive types (belt, VFD, etc..), heat exchangers, filters).
    - What does pressure and temperature tell you about your particular process?
    - Fundamentals of steam.
    - Fundamentals of E/I in terms of their distributed control system or control panels (i.e. what is process variable, setpoint, output and how it relates to the final control element they are controlling.  What does tuning mean?).
    - Using your senses to monitor your equipment (operator driven reliability mindset).
    - How to properly use a portable thermal gun (i.e. paint a black spot on a Stainless Steel line before you use an IR gun).
    - Fundamental lubrication principles.
    - Give the operator a one binder of all the troubleshooting guides that come with all the OEM manuals of their specialized equipment.
    - ​Fundamentals of your financials (What is your business, how does your company make money, how much is your area budget, how much do things cost, etc..).
    - Fundamentals of your customers (who are they, what is important to them, how can they help quality?)
    - Fundamentals of your environment systems (i.e. sewer system).
    - Importance of ergonomics (i.e. especially with panel operators that sit for long periods of time).
    - Process line labeling review and standards.

    John Howell PE
    Senior Process Engineer
    Fredericton NB

  • 4.  RE: What Are the Important Sciences for Process Operators/Technologists

    Posted 07-16-2019 15:55
      |   view attached

    Thank you for your post.  I agree with you 100% in that the really important areas of knowledge which a good operator should understand are physics, chemistry, and human relations.  You include financials which are important and part of the "physics" of a process (input v output), but a good operator may not need the understanding of DROI (Discounted Return On Investment).  Besides knowledge, a skill not mentioned is good old arithmetic.

    My curiosity arose when the former owner of the 5 acres next to us confided in me that he did not know what he was looking up in Steam Tables.  He was employed as an operator at the South Texas Project (STP) Nuclear Power Plant south of Bay City, Texas.  One of his duties was to record the temperature and pressure between the turbine blade rows powering the generator and then look up two (thermodynamic) properties in the Steam Tables .  He did not know what those properties meant, but wished he did.  Later, it was confirmed that they were enthalpy and entropy.  Just as you mention that an operator needs to understand steam and the effects of temperature and pressure, I feel that the concepts of enthalpy and entropy helps give an operator the best understanding.  When they understand the relationships of anything they are doing, then they will be more conscientious in performing their jobs.

    I believe we recognize the fundamentals of chemistry.  Human relations may be influenced by personality.  What I am interested in is the physics science.  Physics is an extremely broad area.  Unfortunately from what I has seen in community college programs for Process Technology, most of the subject matter of their conceptual physics courses, which primarily use Conceptual Physics by Paul G. Hewitt, is not pertinent to process operations.  Those subjects emphasize mechanics (Newton's Laws of Motion, momentum, energy, rotational motion, gravity, and projectile and satellite motion), properties of matter (solid, liquid and gases), sound, light, atomic and nuclear physics, and relativity.  But the worst thing is that there is almost no arithmetic.

    QUESTION: Which "physics" topics do you consider to be the most important?  You might want to look at a survey which I am preparing to send to the industrial members of the North American Process Technology Alliance (NAPTA).  The survey is long, so I suggest a "Reply to Sender" listing 5 to 10 of the most relevant "physics" science subjects to process operators/technologists instead of doing the entire survey.  That would be most helpful as I am primarily interested in the subjects that are most relevant to process operations, not the "also" physic science subjects.  Besides, it will save you a lot of time as the survey is long.  The survey is based on the titles of chapters and sub-chapters of various textbooks.  I was also thinking of inviting the members of the Process Engineering Discussion Community to take the survey sometime in the future.  Such an endeavor would need to be approved by the Institute, so I was hoping to first get some feel for the thinking when I proposed the topic.

    Your post and assistance will be greatly appreciated.

    David Griffith

    T. David Griffith, Ph.D.
    Blessing (Bay City), TX