A chemical engineer is involved in the development of industrial processes for the production of a diverse range of products, as well as in commodity and specialty chemicals. Relevant industries include oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, water treatment, food and drink, plastics and toiletries. Modern chemical engineering is also concerned with pioneering valuable new materials and techniques, such as nanotechnology, fuel cells and biomedical engineering.
The role may focus on one of more of the following: researching new products from trial through to commercialisation; managing scale-up processes from plant to full industrial-scale manufacturing; improving product lines; modifying the processing plant that produces the products; and designing and commissioning new plants.
Typical work activities
Typical activities are extremely diverse, depending on the role, but may include:
- Working closely with process chemists and control engineers to ensure the process plant is set up to provide maximum output levels and efficient running of the production facility;
- Designing plant and equipment configuration so that they can be readily adapted to suit the product range and the process technologies involved, taking environmental and economic aspects into account;
- Instituting scale-up and scale-down processes including appropriate changes to equipment design and configuration;
- Assessing options for plant expansion or reconfiguration by developing and testing process stimulation models;
- Designing, installing and commissioning new production plants, including monitoring developments and troubleshooting;
- Optimising production by analysing processes and compiling de-bottleneck studies;
- Applying new technologies;
- Ensuring that potential safety issues related to the project operator, the environment, the process and the product are considered at all stages.
Examples of work activities in specific sectors include:
- Undertaking small and intermediate-scale manufacturing and packaging activities in pharmaceutical product development for clinical trial purposes
- Developing new methods of safe nuclear energy production, including projects such as conceptual design, simulation and construction of test rigs, and detailed design and operations support