Using your degree : Chemical Engineering

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Chemical engineers have as much variety and scope of work as their colleagues in other branches of engineering. Their specialised abilities are widely sought by manufacturers, contractors and consultants. zsharer got hold of this article when she went to the career office in Leeds University 18 years ago and felt that this article still to date are really interesting for Chemical Engineering graduate as it examines the diverse routes that a career in chemical engineering can take.

P.S  zsharer actual major during A-Level was Pure Biology. However due to twist of fate (zsharer did really badly in her Biology A Level exam) thus she went to see JPA by herself at age 18 years old and plead her case and requested to JPA in changing her major from Pure Biology to Chemical Engineering and Alhamdullilah  JPA granted her request – one of  the sound decision she made in her life.

Now please read this article if you are a Chemical Engineering student:-

Chemical engineers are fortunate, as their services are in demand in many industries. Manufacturers of petrochemicals, biotechnology, food and beverages industries all compete for the services of the best of each years’s graduate chemical engineers.

Chemical engineering

Chemical engineers can also start a career with producers of detergents (zsharer did this as her 1st job ?), powders, cosmetics, agrochemicals, plastics and composite materials, resins and explosives. Companies which extract minerals from ore and those which manufacture metals and building materials, plastics and ceramics all need to recruit chemical engineers. Therefore the choice of industries, and products is an extremely broad one. Current growth area for chemical engineers are in the petrochemical and water industries and in time manufacturing of biological and speciality chemicals. Environmental controls on effluent resulting from a tightening government legislation are providing more opportunities linked to the environmental impact of chemical plants, both for engineers working within the manufacturing firms and those employed by environmental consultant.

Companies using biotechnology do not just investigate and produce novel drugs in sterile environments, they also manufacture genetically engineered foods, medical diagnostic kits and intermediate chemicals for other reactions. They use the skills of chemical engineers in sterile processing plants to produce novel genetically engineered chemicals. Sometimes these chemicals are used as intermediates to contribute to other reactions, sometimes as raw materials for the final production process. Work in biochemical is similar, but more exacting than other chemical processes because of the need for careful attention to every detail, always an important aspect of chemical engineering.

“The growing number of environmental consultancies which provide services such as environmental impact assessment for their clients is another area of employment for chemical engineers”

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Selecting a role

One of the key attractions of life as a chemical engineer is the large number of roles available. You might begin your career by working as a process plant engineer, with eventually responsibility for optimising output in terms of the purity of the new product, its cost, assessing waste reduction, or improving the effectiveness of catalysts. The plant run continuously, 24 hours a day, with work organised in shifts, night and day. Chemical engineers work in teams which ensure the continual operation of each process. Trainees begin by learning about the operation of each section of the plant and soon gain further responsibility. The input of raw materials and the composition of the output, the heat put in or extracted, the pressure generated and the performance of catalysts are all of importance. Running the plant safety is the first concern, but running it economically and effectively is also vital for a successful operation.

The processing plant will include some sensors and instrumentation for the measurement of variables to ensure safe and economic production. One of the tasks of engineers in this area is to organize and carry out periodic, planned maintenance and cleaning of reactors and plant. This requires careful planning so that the plant shut down during periods of at least demand for the product and continuously operational when the need for the product is high.

A few chemical engineers are employed at oil wells where they control the process of separating oil, gas and water as it emerges. Some engineers also control processes which extracts precious minerals from ores.

Alternatively you may be a process development engineer, designing new ways of making an existing product or trying to produce an entirely new one using the same processing plant. Process development engineers are more likely to work a nine-five day. Your work may involve modifying an existing production to make it more efficient. This might be achieved by altering the process, the kinetics, the raw materials, the geometry or heating of reactors, the catalysts or changing temperatures and pressures.

Engineers working in process development often start by simulating the process using computer techniques and move on to small-scale production using a pilot plant. Every time the system is increased in scale the changing thermodynamics of the situation must be assessed. Once there is confidence in the newly develop method, or a new product can be produced successfully, it is time to try out the process on a large plant, or to involve contractors in discussion about the detailed design and construction of a new plant. Eventually you might be involved in choosing a contractor to make the plant and take responsibility for supervising their work for your company.

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Chemical engineers working for contractors do much of the detailed design for new plants or major changes to existing processes. Engineers employed by contractors usually start their carers preparing the detailed designs for new process plant. They can  quickly move on to management roles concerned with planning and logistics. Eventually they supervise subcontractors who are constructing the process equipment, installing it on site, and commissioning it to produce products to the desired specification and purity. Senior engineers get involved in leading projects teams, negotiating with clients, drawing up and agreeing contracts, and making sure the plant is erected on time, within budget and to the right specification.

“One of the key attractions of life as a chemical engineer is the large available number of roles available”

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Chemical pollution

Questions about how a chemical plant affects the environment are much higher on the agenda  now than they have ever been. New legislation is continually improving protection of the environment and placing new obligations on engineers. Some engineers are concerned with the analysis of gaseous, solid and liquid emissions from chemical plant, while other design and develop methods to reduce environmental hazards, perhaps converting pollutant into an innocuous chemical. These activities all provide employment for chemical engineers.