Conceptual and Preliminary Process Designs
Feasibility Studies and Conceptual Design
When clients are contemplating a new plant or major process expansion, they typically have more questions than answers. Will the idea even work? IncBio is able to assist by providing experienced and knowledgeable chemical engineers that can identify, and systematically narrow down, the possible technical options for a given process goal. By necessity this occurs at the major unit operations level. Once the viable technical options are identified, an economic evaluation is performed. Based on technical merits, system reliability, and economics (capital and operating), and other factors, a preferred choice is usually clear as to which direction the future process design should take. At this point a conceptual design can be done that includes preliminary process flow diagrams, mass & energy balances, and a list of major equipment. A very rough order of magnitude cost estimate can be provided as well.
Some industry segments, mainly refining, refer to this type of work as FEL-0 and FEL-1, where FEL refers to Front End Loading. It is widely recognized that this key front end work will have a major impact on the overall project and ultimate operation. If you don't get this right then your project is in trouble no matter how good the subsequent detail engineering, construction, and project management work are executed.
FEL 0 - Identification Phase
Project opportunities arise through outside proposals, management directives, or individual initiatives. These opportunities can target revenue growth, expense reductions, strategic growth, or improved reliability, efficiency or maintenance. We first identify the opportunities by evaluating their value and identifying key risks and uncertainties. It is important to evaluate these opportunities on a consistent basis for accurate relative comparison purposes. The basis for the first decision gate (sometimes referred to as MR-1) is typically a Class V cost estimate with premises for economic modeling typically ranging from –20% to +50%.
FEL 1 - Appraisal and Selection Phases
Each project that successfully gets MR-1 approval progresses to the Appraise phase, where a thorough set of development alternatives is prepared and further assessment of process value, risk, and uncertainty is conducted. From a facilities perspective, some engineering may be required to further refine cost and schedule deliverables, although these should be closely managed to expend funds only where value is added. The best development concepts are moved forward to the Select phase.
Further study of multiple development options occurs in the Selection phase with the objective of identifying a single process concept for progression to the Optimization phase and subsequent final detail process design package development. Preparation of work deliverables require that a single viable concept be selected and further developed during this phase. Well-defined selection criteria should be established at the beginning of this phase to ensure the most efficient use of resources (time, money, and manpower). Once a concept has been selected, the team will complete the level of detail necessary to develop a cost estimate and preliminary project schedule with a typical accuracy of –20% to +40%.
Detailed Process Designs
Front End Engineering Design (FEED)
The very front end of every large design project is critical to the long-term success or failure of the plant. While the business plan identifies the economic opportunity, the Front End Engineering Design (FEED) will establish the set of process operating conditions and equipment to achieve the level of reliability, efficiency, and safety required. This design phase sets the direction for the rest of the project. Because it is so critical to the future success or failure of the overall objectives, we feel our clients make the wise choice by purchasing proven licensed processes or selecting a firm like ours which specializes in process design engineering.
IncBio has learned to put great emphasis on the development of the Design Basis at the initiation of the FEED. When the design basis is complete, we typically have the following information defined:
Once the design basis is in place, and agreed upon by our client, our team of chemical process engineers goes to work to create, analyze, and refine the many aspects of the plant design. The end result is process documentation that describes the process from which future, more detailed, design work can be done.
- Raw material specifications
- Plant capacity requirements
- Product specifications
- Critical plant operating parameters
- Available utilities specifications
- Individual unit operations performance requirements
- Process regulatory requirements
- All other operating goals and constraints desired by the plant owners/operators/engineers
Typically a FEED package’s Process Engineering Deliverables may include the following:
Schedule A and Basic Engineering Design Packages
- Process design basis
- Process descriptions
- Process design philosophies
- Relief system design basis
- Process flow diagrams (PFDs)
- Utility flow diagrams (UFDs)
- Material selection diagrams (MSDs)
- Material & energy balance (M&EB)
- Piping & Instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs)
- Line list
- Tie-in list
- Process equipment list
- Process specialty items list
- Equipment process datasheets
- Instrument process datasheets
- Relief scenario datasheets and relief valve process datasheets
- Hydraulic design reports
- Utility balances
- Chemical and catalyst summary
- Process effluent summary
- Process risk analysis
- Process study reports
The Schedule A or Basic Engineering Design package refers to a completed process design package that includes all the necessary information required by an Engineering/Construction firm or Detail Engineering firm to perform the detail engineering of the plant (details such a structural steel supports, buildings, wiring, piping details, insulation, equipment vendor/model selection, etc.). INCBIO provides this package and is there to answer any questions the client or engineering firm might have to ensure a smooth transition into the detail engineering phase. We provide these packages for both Inside Battery Limits (IBL) and Outside Batter Limits (OBL) design requirements.
Process Integrity Oversight During Detail Engineering & Construction Phases
More and more, IncBio is requested to remain on during the detail engineering and construction phases of projects for which we have performed the process design. In this oversight role, any process change requests are routed through our engineers for approval or comment. This helps ensure that the client understands what the impact may be on the process as changes and alternatives are suggested.
Many times there is great pressure to hold down costs as the civil, mechanical, electrical, and instrumentation details of the plant are developed. The temptation to remove seemingly inconsequential process components can lead to off-spec product, inadequate throughput, high operating costs, etc. We are able to help prevent such problems simply by serving as the process integrity watchdog.
In addition, many times IncBio is asked to provide vendor technical and cost proposal evaluations to assist the client in making the best technology selection possible. Since we are not aligned with any equipment companies, we provide these services in a completely objective manner and make what we feel is the best recommendation based solely upon the technical and economic aspects of the options. We can also provide valuable assistance during the construction phase of a process related project.
Process Technical and Economic EvaluationsWe are often called upon by clients to evaluate process options aimed at achieving one or more specific goals. These goals run the gamut from improved throughput, quality, or consistency, to emissions reduction, energy recovery, or waste minimization. In such cases we begin by determining the current state of the process. This is done through a series of interviews and discussions with the client's technical, engineering, and plant operating personnel. Additionally plant process data is collected in various forms, some of which include P&IDs, batch sheets, DCS data logs, heat and material balance information (if it exists), operation logs, etc.
Our engineers then begin to analyze the situation via experience, calculations, simulation techniques, and consultation with other engineers at IncBio as needed. The outcome is a technical engineering critique of the current process with a focus on the areas which need the most improvement. The economic cost implications of the current process are modeled to establish the baseline from which all potential improvements will be evaluated. Many times we are asked to further identify viable technical options and provide an economic comparison between them.
Based on technical process option merits, economic cost implications (capital/operating, fixed/variable), and our experienced based evaluation of the relative suitability of each process option, a final solution is recommended. Although more detailed engineering effort is required to make the best option a tangible operational solution, our clients can do so with confidence knowing they have made an intelligent, thorough, systematic, and informed decision.
Pilot Plants - Design & Testing Support Projects or Process Scale Up Design Projects Many clients come to us wanting chemical engineering process design assistance after they have done some level of due diligence to confirm that their process technology should work in real life. Sometimes the available information will include well executed pilot plant trial data, process heat and materials balance information, and all the necessary physical and chemical properties fully defined.
Unfortunately, the more typical information consists of academic papers, some lab test data, and maybe some pseudo pilot plant information with stream property information only on the major products at best. The client usually has one or more technical staff members who are excellent at coming up with the innovative process idea, but lack the industrial process or design detail experience to bring the system to an efficiently functioning reality - that's were we can help.
IncBio will evaluate this information, review the pilot plant setup, interview the client's technical staff, and often perform a literature search to determine at what stage the process development is at and what information may be lacking. Frequently we perform preliminary design verification calculations to ensure that the data and information, as presented, is not likely breaking any of the irrefutable laws of physics or thermodynamics. Often the information is insufficient to proceed and we then suggest a path forward to either collect additional information to fill in the gaps or rethink the entire process if major flaws are uncovered. We strongly encourage clients to utilize pilot plant trials to work through the large majority of the process challenges.
Our engineers at IncBio have a great deal of experience with pilot plant testing and scale up designs. Both our operations and design experience allow us to make many critical improvement suggestions in areas such as materials of construction, equipment layout, operational safety considerations, operability and maintenance, process controls, and more. These inputs are folded into the scaled up design for the larger process. A rigorous process simulation model is then created to provide compete heat and material balance information, operating conditions, hydraulic pressure drop data, and more.
At this stage the IncBio will frankly consult with the client to help evaluate the project's potential technical and economic changes for success. Finally, assuming the project is deemed viable, P&IDs, equipment specifications, and a cost estimate of the new commercial sized process is generated. This package is then ready to be handed over for detail engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC).
Process Design ComponentsAny of the design services listed above may include some or all of the following components. The items included and level of detail will vary depending on clients desires or on which phase the project is in. The more mature the process design, the more of these components will be included.
Complete process design packages normally include:
- Process design basis development
- Regulatory basis development
- Process computer simulation
- Advanced spreadsheet-simulation-spreadsheet user interfacing
- Mass and energy balances
- Technical and economic process alternatives evaluation
- Conceptual process design
- Detail process design
- Process control system design
- Design basis
- Mass and energy balance computer simulations
- Process simulation models for client use
- Process flow diagrams (PFDs)
- Process control logic and process control diagrams (PCDs)
- Capital cost estimate
- Operating cost estimate
- Piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs)
- Equipment plot plans
- Utility flow diagrams
- Equipment lists
- Equipment sizing and specifications datasheets
- Preliminary process hazards analysis documentation
- Plant layouts
- Preliminary process operating manuals
Process Modeling and SimulationIncBio uses long-term or short-term licensed commercial process simulation software (CHEMCAD, Aspen, Hysis, Pro/II, Simsci) and/or in-house simulation programs to perform:
- Detailed mass and energy balances
- Unit operation design/evaluation
- Piping system hydraulics calculations
- Relief and flare system design/evaluation
- Heat exchanger design/evaluation
Listed below are the types of plant operations support that INCBIO typically provides to operating companies. Additionally, process engineering staff augmentation can be provided for operating facilities within reasonable commuting distance from one of our regional offices.
- Process evaluation, troubleshooting, optimization
- Control system startup, tuning, optimization
- Commissioning and startup assistance
- Existing operations design basis development
- Operating procedures, process documentation
- Operator and technical staff training
- Statistical process control
Third Party Evaluations, etc.
- Plant investment due diligence evaluation
- Process/equipment bid package preparation
- Vendor bid evaluations and recommendations
- Expert witness/legal team technical assistance