Why Is Plant Design So Darned Difficult?
#1 Plant Design is… unexpected.
Unlike calculus, terror professors, and thesis writing, Plant Design is not a subject people love to joke about. You don’t see movies or comic strips about students trying to design a whole manufacturing plant!
This means you probably haven’t heard of how complex and demanding PD is until you’re caught in its revolving door of headlines. And just when you think you had it figured out, it throws you another curveball. Like how to dispose of 45,000,000 tons of sludge when its treatment costs five times your country’s GDP and extends your payback period by a lifetime of Abraham…
#2 Plant Design is like a balance problem with 100 unknowns and 0 given variables.
When they said design a whole plant, they meant THE WHOLE. DAMN. PLANT. And the only thing they give you is a deadline.
The rest, you figure out for yourselves. The equipment, mixers, and pumps. The pipes and rivets that connect everything. The materials required and the electricity you need to heat and cool and mix and chop up things. The floor layouts. Fire exits. Vacation days. Number of employees. Delivery trucks. Storage rooms. Waste treatment plan… and other things I can’t remember because I tend to block horrible memories as a defense mechanism.
And they’re all dependent on each other.
So you better make sure those energy and mass balance equations are perfect because that misplaced oxygen upstream is going to burn you (har har) later once your adviser spots the mistake and orders you to refactor THE WHOLE. DAMN. PLANT.
#3 Plant Design is like a review.
… of all the subjects you barely passed from 1st-4th year and hoped to God you’d never have to take up again.
Do you remember how to compute for the number of stages in a packed column? No?
#4 Plant Design (sometimes) destroys friendships.
Don’t take my word for it. Look at a ChE student’s status:
Of course, real friends don’t leave you to design a distillation column alone. But it still hurts when someone you used to watch movies and get drunk with ignores your urgent requests for VLE data. 🙁
#5 Plant Design is like a battle with Nazguls.
You know how Frodo was stabbed in the skirmish at Weathertop? How he becomes depressed and has nightmares on the anniversary of the stabbing?
I have those nightmares too. Every April for 3 years now, I wake up panicking because I dreamed I forgot to use a non-corrosive coating for my extraction column, or there was an amendment to the Clean Air Act and they revoked my degree until we updated the Plant Design to match the new standards, or some other silly reason.
I have to log back in to CRS and check that my Plant Design grade is still there to be sure that it’s all a dream and I’m safe. I survived PD… It’s okay… I’m safe now.
*rocks self to sleep*
The wounds… they never truly heal.
Disclaimer: I love my groupmates and my Plant Design adviser.