Static Equipment Design Career
Updated: May 7
The primary purpose of this article is to give you an idea about role of a Static Equipment Design Engineer (SEDE) in various types of engineering organization. This information will also enable you to identify potential job opportunities based on the type of organization and the work they perform.
The secondary purpose of the article is to introduce various parties that may be involved during the construction of process plant. Whenever the term Process Plant (PP) is mentioned here it broadly means (but not limited to): a petrochemical plant, a refinery, a chemical plant etc.
In the end there is a little discussion the about the career path of a SEDE.
CLIENT Side Organizations:
Client side organizations are the big giant companies who are already running several PPs. These organization, from time to time, will initiate a need for a new PP or expansion of an existing PP. As they have a lot of money and they are busy running their PPs, they don’t want to do this job themselves. So they hire a contractor. And not just any contractor, but an EPC contractor (See below). Some of the major Client side organizations are Exxon Mobil, Shell, Saudi Aramco & Sabic.
Of course this is an unofficial description of Client side organizations. For a vendor, Client may be an EPC contractor. For a steel plate manufacturer, client may be a vendor. That’s why I have named it “Client Side organizations” to differentiate it from the general term of client.
Usually there is a technical department in these organizations, where they hire many engineers along with SEDEs. This department contains all the design data and specifications of the already operating PP. The role of SEDE in such an organization is to acquaint him with all the possible technical information that may be required to certain problems faced during the operation of the plant. As a SEDE, you may also be involved with the new projects such as expansion of the existing PP or a new PP from scratch. You will be involved in activities such preparing feasibility studies, reviewing documents prepared by EPC contractors etc.
When the client side people decide that its time for a new project, they prepare a comprehensive requisition, which is floated for bidding. The bidders are usually EPC contractors.
(EPC is an abbreviation for Engineering, Procurement & Construction)
EPC organizations are also huge companies which specialize in all the aspects of construction of a new PP or expansion on an existing PP. The whole process of construction is very nicely summarised in to three chunks of E, P & C (Hence the name). EPC companies are project oriented as compared to CLIENT side organizations which operation oriented.
An EPC organization usually comprises of many departments. Each department specializes in a one of the many aspects of a Process Plant design. For example, Piping department deals with the piping involved in the Process Plant.
They have other departments like procurement (purchasing) and construction. Some supporting departments include Projects, Planning & Materials/Stores.
Many SEDEs work in an EPC organization or with a fabrication vendor (see below for more information on vendor). Many a time Static Engineers are part of the Mechanical Department, along with rotary & package engineers. As SEDE in an EPC company, your role is more technical and engineering orientated. The day to day activities include producing mechanical datasheets, engineering drawings, specifications and requisitions. Also review the detailed drawings produced by vendor. You may also be involved in estimation of manhours for a certain project that the company is bidding for. Also there is some good interaction involved with other departments e-g Process or Construction.
Some of the major EPC companies of the world are: Flour, Petrofac, Worley Parsons, Technip, JGC etc.
Vendors (& Subcontractors):
As the scale of work required for the construction of the whole PP is very large, the EPC contractor can’t execute the whole job alone. Thus EPC contractor has to “sub-contract” various activities to other sub-contractors or vendors. A sub-contractor or Vendor usually specializes in one single activity. For example, a pressure vessel vendor will fabricate one or more pressure vessels for the PP, but he is not concerned about the piping involved in the plant. A material vender may provide steel fittings to be used in the piping involved in the plant.
The difference between Vendor and subcontractor is some what vague, but usually Vendors provide stand alone equipment or material e-g a Pump vendor will provide a complete working. On the other hand, Sub-contractors are more service oriented e-g a EPC may subcontract the construction of concrete storage tanks to a civil contractor.
Static equipment vendors or manufacturers also hire static design engineers who prepare the detailed engineering design for the production of equipment. They are directly in contact with the Static/Mechanical Department of the EPC contractor and the design documents to be produced at a vendor facility must comply with all the requirements and specifications dictated by the EPC contractor.
Here the work of a SEDE is also technical but in a different way. The scope is limited to each static equipment and there is no interaction with other departments working for the new PP. The day to day activities include: reviewing the drawings produced by the drafting team, preparing calculations, revising calculations & drawings which are reviewed and commented by the EPC contractor. They also support the fabrication shop in case there is some problem during the fabrication of equipment.
Along with all these companies there is one more party that is involved in the construction of a new PP called “Licensor”.
The Licensor is an organization whose job is to make sure that the process plant that is going to be built, will work according to the requirements of the client. These companies have a more research oriented setup and they devise/invent new technologies for process industry. They “License” a certain type of technology for a certain type of process plant. They are in a close interaction with Client and the EPC contractor. And many a time they provide one or two priority equipment in the whole plant that they manufacture themselves. The hire more process engineers rather than SEDEs.
Career Path of a SEDE:
The below information is purely based on my humble experience as an recruiting manager. I may be incorrect so don’t take it as a final word.
Ususally it is preferable that a new SEDE shall work with a vendor for about 2 years to get a good idea of the manufacturing aspects of the Static Equipments. But the Vendor organizations are considered to be worst place for SEDE in the long run. If you stick to a vendor organization for a longer time, you may be given an opportunity in an EPC organization (of course this is not a strict rule, but a general understanding). So Its better you switch to an EPC company within 2-3 years of start of your career with a vendor.
Fresh engineer may also lookout for opportunity with small consultancies who are dealing in projects which involve design of Process Equipment's. As most of the small consultancy prefer to hire a young talent with some basic know-how of process equipment's which can be further groomed by on job training.
EPC companies prefer a little vendor side experience too (but as I said too much experience with a vendor is not desirable). But EPC companies also hire fresh graduates through campus placement. That’s also a good opportunity for new engineers.
Client Side organizations usually hire experienced SEDE's with 10-15 years and they pay the maximum salary. It is usually difficult to get into a client side organization for SEDEs and many SEDEs actually never work with a client side organization.
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