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Development of Learning Modules for Process Plant Operation

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Chemical Engineering in the Junior and Senior Year

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Richard Turton P.E. West Virginia University

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Richard Turton is the WVU Bolton Professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at West Virginia University. He taught the senior design course for 29 years and is co-author of the textbook Analysis, Synthesis, and Design of Chemical Processes now in its 5th edition. He is also a co-author of the book "Chemical Process Equipment" with Joe Shaeiwitz on equipment design.

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Fernando V. Lima West Virginia University

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Fernando V. Lima joined the faculty as an Assistant professor of Chemical Engineering at West Virginia University (WVU) in January 2013. He is now Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering since August, 2019. His research group at WVU focuses on the development and implementation of process systems engineering methods for process design and intensification, advanced control and state estimation, modular energy systems and sustainability. He received his B.S. degree from the University of São Paulo in 2003 and his Ph.D. from Tufts University in 2007, both in Chemical Engineering. Upon completion of his Ph.D., he was a research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a postdoctoral associate at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Lima has served as the AIChE Society Associate Editor for the American Control Conference (ACC) for five years (2013-2015, 2017-2018). He is also a guest editor for Special Issues of Processes and Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research journals and member of the Editorial Boards of Journal of Process Control and Processes.

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Brent A. Bishop West Virginia University Orcid 16x16

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Brent Bishop is a graduate of West Virginia University’s (WVU) Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering. In 2016, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering with minors in Mathematics and Leadership Studies and is currently pursuing a PhD in Chemical Engineering. His thesis research focuses on the design and control of modular energy systems and he also provides leadership education as well as scenario-based learning about chemical processes to the chemical engineering department.

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Advances in course content for the capstone design course in chemical engineering over the past 30 years have been very significant. Many of these advances have been facilitated by the increase in computing power now available to students through process simulators and other computational tools. Obtaining a base case design and doing a few basic sizing calculations might have formed the basis for an acceptable senior design report in the early 1990’s. Today expectations are much higher and might include multiple case studies, sophisticated optimizations including process economics, sustainability, life-cycle and safety analyses. However, very few chemical engineering graduates work for design and construction companies and those employed in the process industry will more likely work in an operating facility. Therefore we ask the question, “Can a design-driven chemical engineering undergraduate curriculum really prepare students for their first two years in process plant operations?”

The purpose of this presentation is to discuss some of the approaches used by the authors to teach undergraduate students how chemical processes operate and to introduce a series of educational modules that address plant operation. The use of a “standard” steady state simulator, the work horse of the capstone design course, is not very helpful in teaching plant operations, rather a dynamic simulation of the process is required that possesses many of the features of the operating plant. Such features include the correct pressure-flow balance, the process dynamics, the control system, and safety features such as emergency relief valves and the appropriate digital logic to start and stop equipment. This approach naturally focuses on the level of information contained in a piping and instrumentation diagram (P&ID) rather than the process flow diagram (PFD) that is used most frequently in the capstone design. To this end, the authors will introduce a dynamic model of a styrene production process and then discuss several modules that illustrate normal and abnormal operations of the plant. These modules will introduce typical control schemes for the start-up of common plant operations, a temporary shut-down procedure that an operator might use to mitigate an unwanted process condition, and an emergency relief system used to protect the integrity of a piece of equipment. A video of one of the procedures will also be shown to illustrate the pedagogy used to design the system and to show the subsequent operation of the system.

Feedback from students using these modules will be discussed.

Turton, R., & Lima, F. V., & Bishop, B. A. (2020, June), Development of Learning Modules for Process Plant Operation Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34459

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