Chemists, biochemists, and materials scientists work in research labs to develop physical and chemical products. These can include drugs, detergents, fertilizers, food products, petrochemicals, plastics, fuels, fertilizers, and fabrics. Chemical engineers work on teams to develop and oversee the operation of processes to make these products at a large scale. They adapt the small-scale processes used in the lab to make these products for commercial and industrial use.
Chemical engineers operate or manage chemical, biochemical, pharmaceutical, materials, oilfield production, and refinery processing plants. They ensure plants operate efficiently, safely, and with the environment in mind. They advise on:
- Choosing technology
- Designing the layout of industrial plants
- Choosing, sizing, and installing equipment
In overseeing production processes, chemical engineers:
- Decide on the best processes for commercial production
- Assess the economic, safety, health, and environmental aspects of processes and projects
- Identify safe and cost-effective options for processes and projects
- Design better ways (processes and equipment) to convert raw materials into products
- Find solutions to problems that may arise in processing plants
- Use computers to simulate, model, and control processes
- Choose the best instruments to measure pressure, temperature, flow rate, and composition
- Design and operate systems to control quality and environment
- Supervise other engineers, as well as technologists and technicians, engaged in support activities
Chemical engineers may work in the following areas.
In research and development, they study ways to develop or improve products and processes. They usually work with a team of scientists and engineers. The scientists can be:
The other engineers can be:
In process design, chemical engineers use information on new technology, operational data, and design methods to design processes, specify equipment, and determine how processes should operate.
When designing plants, they consider cost, safety, and the environment. They often work with chemists, financial experts, technologists, and other types of engineers. Chemical engineers are often the ones who lead risk assessments of new projects.
In plant operations, chemical engineers ensure the equipment in their unit works efficiently and safely. They also make sure it produces the desired quantity and quality of product. This includes solving problems, improving processes, and modifying equipment. They work with technologists, operators, and other engineers. They often report to production managers or more senior engineers.