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Equipment Selection,
Specification, and Design
Where to find information on process equipment
How to obtain equipment information from vendors

Part I of this book covered process design: the synthesis of the complete process as an assembly of
units, each carrying out a specific process operation. In Part II, the selection, specification, and
design of the equipment required to carry out these process operations is considered in more detail.
In practice, plant design and process design cannot be separated. The selection and specification
of one piece of equipment will often require the use of additional equipment and thus have implica-
tions on the process flow diagram. For example, if a continuous dryer is selected for drying a solid
product, it may be necessary to add a heater to preheat the drying gas, a cyclone or filter to recover
solid fines from the off-gas, a cooler and flash drum to cool the off-gas and recover solvent, a vent
scrubber to prevent solvent emissions, etc. The design team must understand all the flowsheet impli-
cations of equipment selection and design to arrive at an accurate cost estimate and process
This chapter gives a short introduction to the selection and design of process equipment and pro-
vides a guide to the following chapters. Most process operations are carried out in closed pressure
vessels, which are addressed in Chapter 14. Chapter 15 discusses the design of chemical and bio-
chemical reactors. Separation processes are covered in Chapters 16 and 17. Chapter 18 addresses
operations that involve solids handling. Chapter 19 describes the design of equipment for heat trans-
fer and Chapter 20 covers the transport and storage of fluids.
Each chapter and section of Part II is intended to be a standalone guide to the design of a parti-
cular operation, but in some cases cross references to sections of other chapters are given to avoid
duplication. Throughout Part II the emphasis is on selection and sizing of equipment and it is
assumed that the reader is familiar with the fundamentals of kinetics, thermodynamics, and transport
processes. Further details on the scientific principles and theory that underlie the design and opera-
tion of process equipment can be found in the numerous textbooks cited in each section and in gen-
eral books on unit operations such as McCabe, Smith, and Harriott (2001) and Richardson, Harker,
and Backhurst (2002).

Chemical Engineering Design, Second Edition. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-08-096659-5.00013-4

2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
558 CHAPTER 13 Equipment Selection, Specification, and Design

Capital cost correlations for each type of equipment are not given in Part II, as the determination
of capital costs for all types of equipment was discussed in Chapter 7. Similarly, materials selection
was covered in Chapter 6. Although the role of safety in design was described in Chapter 10, some
additional safety issues that are specific to certain unit operations are covered in the relevant
sections of Part II.


13.2.1 Proprietary and Nonproprietary Equipment
The equipment used in the chemical process industries can be divided into two classes: proprietary and
nonproprietary. Proprietary equipment, such as pumps, compressors, filters, centrifuges, and dryers, is
designed and sold as standard catalog items by specialist manufacturers. Nonproprietary equipment is
designed as special, one-off, items for particular processes, for example reactors, distillation columns,
and heat exchangers, and is custom-built by specialist fabricators.
Unless employed by one of the specialist equipment manufacturers, the chemical engineer is not
normally involved in the detailed design of proprietary equipment. The chemical engineers job will be
to specify the process duty (flowrate, heat load, temperature, pressure, etc.) and then select an appropri-
ate piece of equipment to meet that duty, consulting with the vendors to ensure that the equipment
supplied is suitable. Proprietary equipment is often only made in certain standard sizes, and the design
engineer must determine which size is best suited for the application, or whether to use multiple units in
parallel to accommodate the desired flow. Chemical engineers may be involved with the vendors
designers in modifying standard equipment for particular applications; for example, a standard tunnel
dryer designed to handle particulate solids may be adapted to dry synthetic fibers. As was pointed out
in Chapter 1, the use of standard off-the-shelf equipment, whenever possible, will reduce costs.
Reactors, columns, flash drums, decanters, and other vessels are usually designed as special
items for a given project. In particular, reactor designs are usually unique, except where more or
less standard equipment is used, such as an agitated, jacketed vessel. Distillation columns, vessels,
and tubular heat exchangers, though nonproprietary items, will be designed to conform to recog-
nized standards and codes; this reduces the amount of design work involved.
The chemical engineers part in the design of nonproprietary equipment is usually limited to
selecting and sizing the equipment. For example, in the design of a distillation column the design
engineer will typically determine the number of plates; the type and design of plate; diameter of the
column; and the position of the inlet, outlet, and instrument nozzles. This information would then
be transmitted, in the form of sketches and specification sheets, to the specialist mechanical design
group, or the fabricators design team, for detailed design.
It must be emphasized that companies that are engaged in the manufacture of chemicals, fuels,
polymers, foods, and pharmaceuticals almost never build their own process equipment. The design
engineers from the operating company usually provide specifications to detailed design groups at an
Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) company, who then subcontract the equipment
manufacture to specialist equipment fabricators. Even one-of-a-kind items such as reactors, distillation
columns, and heat exchangers are built by specialist manufacturers. The accurate transmission of
design details is therefore very important, and the process industries have developed many standard
specifications to facilitate information exchange with vendors. Standard specifications should be used
13.2 Sources of Equipment Design Information 559

whenever possible, as these lead to cheaper designs and reduce the risk of needing rework during

13.2.2 Published Information on Process Equipment

Technical Literature
Descriptions and illustrations of most types of process equipment can be found in various hand-
books: Green and Perry (2007), Schweitzer (1997), and Walas (1990). Perrys Chemical Engineers
Handbook remains the most comprehensive compilation of chemical engineering information. The
online version provided by Knovel is the most accessible format. Many specialized books have
been written on individual unit operations; these are cited throughout the following chapters.
Equipment manufacturers often write articles in the trade journals. Although these are primarily
promotional, they can be quite informative. The trade journals also contain advertisements that can
help identify manufacturers. Articles by equipment vendors are common in Chemical Engineering
and The Chemical Engineer, and appear somewhat less frequently in Chemical Engineering Progress
and Hydrocarbon Processing. The journals usually contain a reader response card that can be faxed
or mailed in to receive advertisers brochures and sales literature. These can be used to build up a
library of vendors catalogs.
Every year the journal Chemical Engineering publishes a buyers guide. The Chemical Engi-
neering Buyers Guide lists over 500 manufacturers and provides indexes by product type, company
name, and trade name, as well as listing web sites and contact information for industry associations.
It can be used as a yellow pages of chemical industry suppliers, but like other directories it is not
fully comprehensive, as not all manufacturers will pay to be listed.
In the United Kingdom, a commercial organization, Technical Indexes Ltd., publishes the Pro-
cess Engineering Index, which contains information from over 3000 manufacturers and suppliers of
process equipment globally.

Online Information
All equipment vendors now maintain an online presence, but there is a wide variation in the quality
of the web sites and the amount of information provided.
Several directory sites have been set up to serve the chemical and process industries. Of these,
the best at time of writing is, which has links to many vendors. More lim-
ited information is also available at and A good site
for finding new and used equipment for sale is
Manufacturers web sites are usually easily located using online search engines and often pro-
vide details of equipment construction, standard sizes, available metallurgies, specification sheets,
and performance information. The Chemical Engineering Buyers Guide can also be used to identify
vendor web sites for specific equipment types. Manufacturers association web sites usually provide
the most comprehensive listings of vendors; see for example the web sites of the Valve Manufacturers
Association:; Tubular Exchanger Manufacturers Association:; and
Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association: Other manufacturers associa-
tions are usually easy to find by searching the Internet.
Some equipment types are relatively easy to find using search engines (crystallizer, rotary
agglomerator, bioreactor, etc.), but locating the vendors of industrial plant can be more difficult
560 CHAPTER 13 Equipment Selection, Specification, and Design

when the equipment name is in common usage (furnace, dryer, filter, pump, etc.). In such
cases, the best approach is to begin at one of the chemical engineering directory sites listed above.


Table 13.1 is a guide to the design of the most common types of process equipment. The numbers
refer to the section of this book that provides design guidelines. Table 13.2 is a similar guide for
separation processes, which have been grouped based on the phases that are separated. Capital cost
correlations for most of the equipment listed in these tables can be found in Table 7.2.

Table 13.1 Guide to Equipment Design

Equipment Type Basic Sizing Detailed Design

Basic reactors 15.2, 15.5 As pressure vessels:
Bioreactors 15.9 Chapter 14
Catalytic reactors 15.8
Multiphase reactors 15.7
Nonisothermal reactors 15.6
Separation columns
Absorption 16.2.4, 17.14 Shells as pressure vessels:
Distillation 17.217.13 Chapter 14
Extraction 17.16 Internals:
Single stage flash 16.3, 17.3.3 Trays 17.1217.13
Stripping 16.2.4, 17.14 Packing 17.14

Other separation processes See Table 13.2

Heat exchange equipment
Air coolers 19.16
Boilers, reboilers, vaporizers 19.11
Condensers 19.10
Fired heaters 19.17
Plate heat exchangers 19.12
Shell and tube exchangers 19.119.9
Transport equipment
Compression of gases 20.6
Conveying of solids 18.3
Pumping of liquids 20.7
Solids-handling equipment
Size reduction (grinding) 18.9
Size enlargement (forming) 18.8
Heating and cooling solids 18.10
Numbers refer to the sections in this book.
13.3 Guide to Equipment Selection And Design 561

Table 13.2 Separation Processes


Solid Liquid Gas/Vapor

Sorting 18.4 Pressing 18.6.5

Screening 18.4.1 Drying 18.7
Hydrocyclones 18.4.2
Classifiers 18.4.3
Jigs 18.4.4

Tables 18.4.5
Centrifuges 18.4.6
Dense media 18.4.7
Flotation 18.4.8
Magnetic 18.4.9
Electrostatic 18.4.10

Thickeners 18.6.1 Decanters 16.4.1 Stripping 16.2.4

Clarifiers 18.6.1 Coalescers 16.4.3 17.14

Hydrocyclones 18.6.4 Solvent extraction 16.5.6

Filtration 18.6.2 Leaching 16.5.6
Centrifuges 18.6.3 Chromatography 16.5.7
Crystallizers 16.5.2 Distillation Chapter 17

Evaporators 16.5.1
Precipitation 16.5.3
Membranes 16.5.4
Reverse 16.5.4
Ion exchange 16.5.5
Adsorption 16.5.7

Gravity settlers 18.5.1 Separating vessels 16.3 Adsorption 16.2.1

Impingement 18.5.2 Demisting pads 16.3 Absorption 16.2.4
separators Cyclones 18.5.3 17.14

Cyclones 18.5.3 Wet scrubbers 18.5.5 Membranes 16.2.2

Filters 18.5.4 Electrostatic 18.5.6 Cryogenic 16.2.3
Wet scrubbers 18.5.5 precipitators distillation Chapter 17
Electrostatic 18.5.6 Condensation 16.2.5

Numbers refer to the sections in this book. The terms major and minor component only apply where different phases are to be
separated, i.e., not to those on the diagonal. Note that separation processes include processes for separating phases as well as
for recovering one or more components from a mixture.
562 CHAPTER 13 Equipment Selection, Specification, and Design

Green, D. W., & Perry, R. H. (Eds.). (2007). Perrys chemical engineers handbook. (8th ed.). McGraw-Hill.
McCabe, W. L., Smith, J. C., & Harriott, P. (2001). Unit operations of chemical engineering (6th ed.).
Richardson, J. F., Harker, J. H., & Backhurst, J. (2002). Chemical engineering (5th ed., Vol. 2). Butterworth-
Schweitzer, P. A. (Ed.). (1997). Handbook of separation techniques for chemical engineers. (3rd ed.).
Walas, S. M. (1990). Chemical process equipment: Selection and design. Butterworth-Heinemann.