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Happy New Year 2008 to Chemical Engineering World Readers

Dear students, chemical engineers to be, chemical engineers, senior engineers, professional engineers, lecturers, researchers etc...

Thanks for reading and supporting my blog. I wish all of you a very happy and prosperous new year ;)

posted by zaki yamani @ 9:07 PM, , links to this post

Graduate Engineer Should Be A Profesional Engineer

All graduate chemical engineers must have the desire and vision to become a professional engineer (PE). But, what is a professional engineer?

Professional Engineer is the term for registered or licensed engineers in some countries who are permitted to offer their professional services directly to the public. The term Professional Engineer and the actual practice of professional engineering is legally defined and protected by a government body. In some jurisdictions only registered or licensed Professional Engineers are permitted to use the title, or to practice Professional Engineering.

For more definitions, reference and more understanding on professional engineers, please check out the following websites (which is from other countries too):


Advantages of Becoming a Professional Engineer

A professional engineer is the mark of a professional. The status demands an extra measure of competence and dedication. While not all engineers find professional engineer status mandatory for their chosen career paths, the PE initials before (or after their names) can provide many advantages.

Employers in all disciplines indicate that they find engineers with PE status to be more dedicated with enhanced leadership and management skills. PE also achieve an enhanced status in the eyes of the public, which equates the engineer with professionals licensed in other fields. PE status is an indicator of dedication to integrity, hard work, creativity and assurance that the individual engineer has passed at least a minimum screen of competence.


www.ieeeusa.org/careers/ (10 Reasons to become a professional engineer)
http://www.iem.org.my (benefits of IEM member, which can lead to PE)
http://www.sabah.org.my/iemsabah/(benefits of IEM member, which can lead to PE)

Professional Engineer in Malaysia

A graduate engineer in Malaysia can apply and be a professional engineer. From my general observations, there are very few graduate engineers registering with Board of Engineers, Malaysia (BEM), a Malaysian government body and Institution of Engineers, Malaysia (IEM), a professional body for engineers promoting professionalism and encourage continuous learning.

JoeWong has detailed out the route to become a professional engineer in Malaysia. On top of that, the issue is also been discussed in Chemical Engineering Forum. If you have doubt or more queries regarding the issue on becoming a professional engineer in Malaysia, you can ask and discuss it in the forum.

Professional Engineers For Other Countries

There are various professional organization that promotes the professional engineer status in other countries. Some examples are:

http://www.icheme.org/ - For those who graduated in UK

http://www.aiche.org/- For those who graduated in USA

Chemical Engineering JOBS in Asia
Chemical Engineering JOBS in Europe
Chemical Engineering JOBS in Malaysia

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posted by zaki yamani @ 10:09 PM, , links to this post

Me and My White Safety Helmet

When i was a student, I wonder how would it feel to become a chemical engineer? How does it feel to wear the safety helmet, that will made us look like a real cool macho engineer.

In the lab at the university, we just put on the white lab coat and not the safety helmet. After my first degree, I continued with my masters degree and still, I have not yet put on the safety helmet. I wonder when will I own and wear the safety helmet.

After completing my masters degree, I joined a local oil and gas servicing company and directly traveled to the site on my first day at work. I was supplied not only with the safety helmet that I wanted to put on all this while, but also jacket, safety boot, coverall, cotton glove, leather glove, goggle and 3M half face mask. On top of that, I have to manage a group of people who were about 5-10 years older than me to blend some specialty chemicals. Under the hot shiny sun, I have to wear the safety helmet. That time, I wished I don't have to wear the safety helmet with the goggle attach on top of it (The goggle need to be applied while blending or pouring the chemicals). I don't feel like the safety helmet is protecting me from anything. After all, there's nothing going to fall onto my head at the side. It was really heavy and I felt like my center of gravity is at my head!!!

Despite of that, I felt sort of proud to display my safety helmet on the rear dashboard of my car and let everybody see it. At home my son will take my helmet and act as an engineer, just like his father. I don't know whether he wants to be an engineer too. It's totally up to him.

Few years after servicing the oil and gas industry, I get a new job as a process engineer in a refinery plant (in the oils and fats industry), I still put on the safety helmet. Now, it is different. I don' have to put any accessories on the safety helmet. It is lighter. I have to wear the safety helmet which is white in colour as soon as I enter the factory. White safety helmet differentiate executives from supervisors, technicians, operators, and others which put on a yellow safety helmet. In different places, safety helmet colour coding is applied. Some may have blue colour representing a safety committee or safety officer etc.

Wearing safety helmet in the plant is very important. The plant is really big and there are a lots of equipments. I lost track of the number of occasions where I knock my head on something. Sometimes, my head hit a metal bar, a globe valve, a lowered roof and others which I could not recall. Luckily I have my safety helmet to protect my head and brain! I could not imagine the state of injury I'm going to face if not protected by the safety helmet.

Previously, I wrongly used the safety helmet. How did I misused it? I sat on it!!! That is totally a wrong usage of the safety helmet. As a result, my safety helmet have a lot of ugly scratches. The white safety helmet on the picture above belongs to me. If you have super focus eyes, you can zoom in and notice some scratches and uneven surface on the helmet edge. Don't be like me. Appreciate your safety helmet. Don't sit on your safety helmet. Respect it. It will protect you, your head and brain!

Chemical Engineering JOBS in Asia
Chemical Engineering JOBS in Europe
Chemical Engineering JOBS in Malaysia

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posted by zaki yamani @ 8:49 PM, , links to this post

Chemical Engineer Genius Converts Pollution into Profits

How does he do it? He simply converts unwanted or waste into a valuable useful product. Have you ever imagine it before? Have you ever thought about the possibility? Check out how this chemical engineer academician cum scientist realized it. This post is adopted from progressiveengineer.com.

Strike up a conversation with Israel Wachs, and you'll find him enthusiastic and ready to talk about his latest project. You can't blame him. A chemical engineering professor at Lehigh University, Wachs has discovered a process that could help paper mills save millions of dollars a year by converting methanol, a pollutant, into formaldehyde, a useful product. Any chemical engineer would relish this.

But that doesn't explain all the giddiness. Wachs envisions taking his process a step further and applying it to other industries, and it has him speaking like an ecologist. He calls it an environmental solution that could change the business approach to making pulp from timber and help achieve sustainability. Continue reading...

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posted by zaki yamani @ 10:50 PM, , links to this post

HAZMAT Team In Action

This video reminds me on my Hazmat experiences while I was in the oil and gas field a few years back. Hazmat is not ONLY required during/after chemical explosions or biological warfare but also when dealing with very hazardous materials. For my case, we dealt with oil and gas with high mercury content, which is above the minimum exposure level to human (Mercury is very dangerous!). Hence, we need to really protect ourselves from mercury contamination. The following video shows an example of a group of people being trained for Hazmat. You can see people with coverall going through few steps to be cleaned. That's part of the buddy system which requires other people to help us get cleaned up. In addition, a Hazmat team must be well organized so that the activity will be smooth and well coordinated.

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posted by zaki yamani @ 9:46 PM, , links to this post

Production Plant Problem # 2 - Inconsistent Pump Flow - Part 2

This post is the continuity from Production Plant Problem # 2 - Inconsistent Pump Flow and Production Plant Problem.

...Finally we came out with a very risky idea but can solve the problem faster. We have to maintain a slight vacuum inside the buffer tank just to hold the oil from pouring out of the leaking hole. We must attain the right balance i.e. to avoid oil from coming out of the vessel so that welding can be done; and to avoid spark from entering the vessel to avoid fire. We gathered enough manpower to execute and monitor the job.

The welding job runs smooth. Due to lack of time, we could not conduct air or steam test to really ensure that the welded portion is properly sealed. With that in mind, the fitters must properly weld the leaking section. They welded a few layers to ensure there’ll be no leaking at all.

While the welding job is in progress on the ground floor, another big vessel on the first floor was externally caught on fire. Smoke rushed out from underneath the insulation and we can see fire coming out of it as well. We swiftly grabbed the fire hose and spray water towards the fire.

It was the insulation wool that was actually burning. The big vessel has some hidden leak and when the plant breaks vacuum, oil came out of it. Combination of oil, high temperature and air triggered the fire as the flash point was reached. That was not the first time. It had happened several times during plant start up or stoppage. Luckily, we managed to put off the fire. However, we continued spraying water to cool down the hot insulation wool. We also poured few pails of low concentrated caustic to encapsulate all leaked oil (hydrocarbon molecules) in the insulation wool.

As soon as the situation on the first floor was under control, the welding job on the ground floor was also completed. Everything looked fine and the plant is ready to start. The vacuum system was slowly established and crude oil is pumped into the plant. After I was really satisfied with the overall situation, I left the plant, relieved that we have identified the prime pumping problem that haunted us all these while. It was already dark and I was very exhausted.

That was the problem # 2 that recently occurred in the plant. I shall continue with problem # 1 followed with problem # 3 in few days time. Oh yea, the photos are not actual events of what occurred in the plant.

Check out Chemical Engineering Forum.

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posted by zaki yamani @ 12:32 AM, , links to this post

Revolutionary Vacuum Cleaner from James Dyson the Inventor

James Dyson is an inventor and a technology team player. He is the type of man who likes to make things work better. Dyson and his team have developed various brilliant quality products that achieved sales of over £3 billion worldwide. He has established James Dyson Foundation in 2002 with the intention to promote charitable giving in the field of science, engineering, medicine and education. He is also the founder of Dyson School of Design Innovation which will be opened in 2009.

In 1991, Dyson won the International Design Fair prize in Japan for his 'G Force' vacuum system. The Japanese were so impressed by its performance that the G Force became a status symbol. He designed and built an industrial cyclone tower, which effectively and efficiently removed powder particles by exerting centrifugal forces greater than 100,000 times those of gravity.

In 1993 he opened his research center and factory in Wiltshire, and developed a machine that collected even finer particles of dust (microscopic particles). He came out with the revolutionary Dual Cyclone™ (DCO1) system, the first in a range of cleaners to give constant suction. The traditional bag has been replaced by two cyclone chambers which cannot clog with dust. After the outer cyclone has spun out the larger dust and dirt particles, the inner cyclone further accelerates the air to remove unhealthy microscopic particles. It proves to be a better and improved vacuum cleaner.

The technology that this Dyson vacuum cleaner employed separates dirt and dust from the air by centrifugal force and collecting it in a bin. It doesn't rely on a filter or bag that clogs, hence suction remains constant. Users will save money because there’s no bag or filter to be replaced in the vacuum set.

The technology is so great that it captures particles as small as pollen, bacteria and mould spores. That's why the air a Dyson expels has 150 times less pollen, bacteria and mould spores than the air you breathe. On top of that, the Dyson vacuum set is tested strong, tough and durable.

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posted by zaki yamani @ 12:12 AM, , links to this post

Production Plant Problem # 2 - Inconsistent Pump Flow

From my previous post, I stated about having three problems in the plant while starting and stopping it. I'm going to share our experience on problem # 2 first. I'll post problem # 1 in a few days time. There's no particular reason for me to post about problem # 2 first instead of problem # 1. I just think problem # 2 is more interesting and I learned a lot from it.

Problem # 2 – Inconsistent pump flow

The pumps below a buffer tank could not deliver the required flow rate that they are supposed to. The flow rate was extremely slow and the discharge pressure was not consistent at all. The pressure went crazy up and down from 0.5 to 5 bars. We tried to adjust and play around with the pump in order to get the desired flow rate.

Slow flow rate means lower throughput, hence lower production. In actual, if we keep on running with the low flow rate, production will be 50% less. We could not afford that to prolong. We have heavy shipment ahead and we need to immediately rectify the pump problem.

There were all together 3 pumps in a row of similar motor kW and pumping capability. Initially we thought all three pumps were having some problem (or the same problem). We asked the maintenance fitters to check, service and replace the mechanical seals. We checked the pump pressure and found it was OK because the discharge line pressure can go up to 4 – 6 bar. There’s no way the pump is having a problem.

Then we thought it was Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) problem. We increase the level of oil inside the buffer tank so that the NPSH will increase. That didn’t work either. The flow rate was still low and the discharge pressures were inconsistent.

By this time, we suspected the pumps were experiencing serious air-lock. Air-lock is a situation where the pump could not pump efficiently and effectively due to some disturbance from air turbulence inside the pump suction line. The pump discharge line pressure inconsistency might be due to the air-lock problem. The question now is where the air is coming from? We decided to thoroughly check the pump suction line to search for any hole/leak (which air may easily enter because the tank is operating under vacuum). We removed the insulations covering the suction line, checking and inspected it, but still we could not see or detect any leak (because the tank and pipe was under vacuum, which means oil would not pour/come out from the leak due to vacuum holding it). Time was running fast but we have not yet settled the problem. We began feeling the pressure coming from our superior/management.

After almost one day running low, we made a more drastic and radical move. We hold the plant and braked vacuum – stopped production. We waited for a while. At first, we noticed nothing. The pump suction pipeline looked fine. After 15 minutes, we were caught by surprised on what we saw! Droplets of oil came out from the tank insulation. At first, it was little, but then there were more and more oil pouring out. This confirmed that there is a leak somewhere underneath the tank insulation. We cautiously removed a small portion of insulation covering the tank where the oil came out (because the oil and the surface was extremely hot (260oC)).

After successfully removing the insulation, we saw oil pouring out from the welding joint between the tank and the pipeline. We looked at each other, wandering how we are going to resolve the already identified problem. We cannot simply weld the leaking point because there traces of vacuum was still inside the tank and system. If the maintenance fitter welds the leak point, we fear spark may enter the tank (and system) and trigger fire inside the tank, pipeline and other vessels. At the same time, it is impossible to weld the leak point because oil was coming out from the tank. Should we drain the balance oil in the buffer tank? If yes, that would cost a lot of time, estimated half a day. Just imagine the downtime we already faced and add up another half a day for repair work and starting up the plant again. We have to think of a better and faster way to weld the leaking point.

Finally we came out with a very risky idea but can solve the problem faster. We have to maintain a slight vacuum inside the buffer tank just to hold the oil from pouring out from the leaking hold.

To be continued in a few days time...

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posted by zaki yamani @ 11:33 PM, , links to this post

The Author


I’m Zaki. I used to be a project, process and chemical engineer. Few years ago I successfully became a Chartered Engineer (IChemE) and Professional Engineer (BEM). I'm now employed as a chemical engineering educator/researcher/consultant. Hope you like reading my blog. I welcome any feedback from you. My email: zaki.yz[alias]gmail.com. TQ!

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