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Work in Progress: Techniques for Including Chemical Process Safety and Environmental Compliance in a Chemical Engineering Capstone Design Course

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Works in Progress in Chemical Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Matthew Lucian Alexander P.E. Texas A&M University, Kingsville

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Dr. Alexander graduated with a BS in Engineering Science from Trinity University, a MS in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech, and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University. He worked for 25 years in environmental engineering consulting before joining the faculty at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2015.

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Joseph Amaya

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The capstone design course in the senior year of the chemical engineering curriculum at _____University serves as a transition for students completing their undergraduate studies and preparing to enter the engineering workforce. As such, the capstone course is a natural point in our curriculum for instruction on the topics of process safety and environmental compliance, since these topics are closely aligned with design of chemical processes, which is the focus of the capstone design experience. Additionally, chemical process safety and environmental compliance are important engineering topics for students to have exposure to, if they accept a job in a production, design, or consulting environment in the refinery or chemical process industries. The capstone design instructor draws upon his experience in teaching these topics, based on a 25-year career in the consulting industry. The aim of this work is to share this instructional approach on these topics with other design education experts to improve our instruction. In ____ University’s chemical engineering capstone design two-course sequence, process safety and environmental compliance topics are covered in both courses. One of the impetuses to improve instruction in these areas was an accreditation visit several years previous that indicated the need to strengthen process safety teaching in our chemical engineering curriculum. The instruction includes introduction to risk-based process safety systems commonly found in the chemical industry, and identification of hazards and risks that most commonly occur in chemical process systems, as demonstrated in catastrophe videos from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. Additionally, discussion are conducted on the multiple approaches that industry takes to minimize operational and maintenance risks to levels that minimize catastrophic events. These approaches include techniques such as post-mortem review of accident near misses, appropriate maintenance and periodic testing of process monitoring equipment, and utilizing management of change to identify potential problems when chemical processes are modified or updated. The environmental compliance instruction that is provided relates to the waste streams emanating from each groups chemical process under design. First of all, the students are introduced to the primary federal regulations that regulate industrial emissions of air and water. The students are then required to identify the components of their various liquid and air waste streams that are subject to federal or state environmental regulations. They are then are required to identify appropriate or common treatment techniques for the stream pollutants, such that their discharge levels can be brought within typical compliance standards. The work presents assessments of student understanding of these important concepts using quizzes and the inclusion of prescribed content in final senior design project reports in the second capstone design course over the past several years. These assessments indicate strong understanding and knowledge retention in quizzes. However, performance on these two topics in the final design report is sometimes lacking or given short shrift, likely because the students are more concerned with reporting the primary results, rather than ancillary aspects, of their project.

Alexander, M. L., & Amaya, J. (2021, July), Work in Progress: Techniques for Including Chemical Process Safety and Environmental Compliance in a Chemical Engineering Capstone Design Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--38201

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