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The What of Plant Layout
One of the challenges of writing a book on plant layout turned out to be the many ways in which key terms were used by those involved in layout.
It was necessary, for example, to distinguish between the layout of the various plots within a site, the arrangement of plots within a plant and, finally, the detailed arrangements of both equipment and piping within a plot.
There is disagreement between layout designers about what constitutes plant, site and plot layout, what the various layout drawings are called, and even what people responsible for layout design are called. This disagreement occurs less within disciplines and within industries than it does between disciplines and industries, but even within a discipline in a single industry sector there is a lack of consistency.
It was therefore necessary to develop precise definitions of the terminology used, to clarify the meaning of the text. The model base case used in this book is that which was used in my earlier book, An Applied Guide to Process and Plant Design.
The level of disagreement about terminology and staging of layout design between layout designers of different disciplines, from different industries, makes it essential to define terms consistently to write a coherent text about the subject. However, I make no claim that these are the correct definitions, only that these are the ones I am using, and that they are perhaps the most commonly used ones.
Definitions are to be found at the start of each chapter in which they are used, but it will clarify matters to outline a few key terms at the outset.
The term “Plant Layout” in this book’s original title was used generically, as it still often is, to mean all aspects of process production facility layout. However, this usage is incompatible with the present legally-defined meaning of the term “plant”.
The illustration shows in simplified form, a process production facility or “Site” (defined in summary as “…bounded land within which a process plant sits”). A Site may contain a number of process plants, as well as non-process plant and buildings. In the illustration the site is in grey.
“Process Plant” (or more simply “Plant”) has been defined for the purposes of this book as “a complete set of process units and direct supporting infrastructure required to provide a total operational function to produce a product or products…”.
Plants may be arranged across several plots- “An area of a site most commonly defined as being bounded by the road system…” – which is bounded, as implied by the definition, by plot roads. Plots are shown in aqua in the illustration.
The term “plant” is sometimes (but never in my book) used by practitioners synonymously with “plot” reflecting the reasonably common occurrence where a plant occupies a single plot.
Within the discipline of layout design, a distinction is commonly made between piping layout (defined here as “the layout of piping and associated support systems…”) and equipment layout (“layout at the level of a single process unit and associated ancillaries”). Either of these disciplines may also be known colloquially (but never in this book) as Plant Layout.
Initially, plot layout is mostly equipment layout, and piping layout only comes in only at the detailed design stage.
There are several other confusing ways in which terms are used in layout design, so this book offers a standardized set of definitions at the start of each chapter. Standardizing definitions in this way made it possible to see that there is a common core approach to laying out plants which represents the heart of universal best practice, and several variants on this which represent sector or discipline specific best practice.
I tried to capture both the common core and variants in the book, Process Plant Layout. To avoid confusing the reader, the main text of the book is based upon the common core approach, with occasional mention of variants. Complete outlines of key discipline-specific variants on the approach may be found in an Appendix.
Having defined our terms, we can move on to the how of plant layout, as I do in my next post.
About the author
Professor Sean Moran is a Chartered Chemical Engineer with over twenty years’ experience in process design, commissioning and troubleshooting and is regarded as the ‘voice of chemical engineering’. He started his career with international process engineering contractors and worked worldwide on water treatment projects before setting up his own consultancy in 1996, specializing in process and hydraulic design, commissioning and troubleshooting of industrial effluent and water treatment plants.
Whilst Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, he co-ordinated the design teaching program for chemical engineering students. Professor Moran’s university work focused on increasing industrial relevance in teaching, with a particular emphasis on process design, safety and employability.
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