top of page
  • Dave Alvelo


Updated: Jun 16, 2020

Process Engineering focuses on the design, operation, control, and optimization of chemical, physical, and biological processes. Process engineering encompasses a vast range of industries, such as chemical, petrochemical, agriculture, mineral processing, advanced material, food, pharmaceutical, software development and biotechnological industries.

The work of Process Engineering involves translating the needs of the customer into (typically) production facilities that convert “raw materials” into value-added components that are transported to the next stage of the supply chain, typically “Packaging Engineering”, but some larger volume processes such as petroleum refining tend to transfer the products into transportation (trucks or rail) that are then directed to distributors or bulk outlets. Prior to construction, the design work of Process Engineering begins with a “Block Diagram” showing raw materials and the transformations/ Unit Operations desired.

The design work then progresses to a “Process Flow Diagram” where material flow paths, storage equipment (such as tanks and silos), transformations/Unit Operations (such as distillation columns, receiver/head tanks, mixing, separations, pumping, etc.) and flowrates are specified, as well as a list of all pipes and conveyors and their contents, material properties such as density, viscosity, particle size distribution, flow rates, pressures, temperatures, and materials of construction for the piping and unit operations.

Process systems engineering (PSE) is a relatively young area in chemical engineering. The first time that this term was used was in a Special Volume of the AIChE Symposium Series in 1961. However, it was not until 1982 when the first international symposium on this topic took place in Kyoto, Japan, that the term PSE started to become widely accepted.

The first textbook in the area was “Strategy of Process Engineering” by Dale F. Rudd and Charles C. Watson, Wiley, 1968. The Computing and Systems Technology (CAST) Division, Area 10 of AIChE, was founded in 1977 and currently has about 1200 members. CAST has four sections: Process Design, Process Control, Process Operations, and Applied Mathematics.

The first journal devoted to PSE was “Computers and Chemical Engineering,” which appeared in 1977. The Foundations of Computer-Aided Process Design (FOCAPD) conference in 1980 in Henniker was one of the first meetings in a series on that topic in the PSE area. It is now accompanied by the successful series on Control (CPC), Operations (FOCAPO), and the world-wide series entitled Process Systems Engineering. The CACHE Corporation (Computer Aids for Chemical Engineering), which organizes these conferences, was initially launched by academics in 1970, motivated by the introduction of process simulation in the chemical engineering curriculum.



bottom of page