Welcome to the latest in a series of AIChE blog posts profiling process engineers, a diverse group of professionals spanning multiple industries and regions. In this series, we profile process engineers who work in fields as diverse as petrochemicals, pharma, bulk chemicals, food, and any process-intensive industry.
Are you a member and process engineer interested in being profiled? We'd love to hear from you via this volunteer opportunity. Please also check out our online discussion group specifically for process engineers. You can find out about these initiatives and join our efforts by visiting https://www.aiche.org/processengineering.
This month, we introduce you to Guillermo Egurrola, a utilities process engineer at PDVSA. He discusses the importance of being a process engineer in his country of Venezuela.
Tell us a bit about your work as a process engineer.
I am a lead process engineer who is accountable for the following utilities areas:
- Natural gas distribution
- Steam generation (600 psig) distribution and supply
- Potable water (600 GPM); Cooling water (80000 GPM)
- Demineralized water (1000 GPM); Compressed air (10000 CFM)
Each day, I verify the products' quality and yield, in addition to tracking all of the variables through the DCS for the various systems mentioned above.
I am also responsible for delivering daily recommendations regarding the follow-up during the workday as well as determining the causes of operational problems or failures that may arise. Obviously, all tasks are accompanied by computational tools to guarantee the delivery of results, such as simulation software.
As process engineers, our work is extremely important. Our main task is to keep all processes running with excellent qualities and yields for all products. To do so, we need to utilize our critical thinking and fast decision-making abilities.
Why did you become a process engineer?
I became a process engineer because I have solid interpersonal skills, strong analytical skills, and am very proactive and well organized. All of my abilities have enabled me to become part of a great group of process engineers during my six years at PDVSA. In this company, we need to have specific characteristics in order to guarantee a good level of knowledge in the department.
All chemical engineers in Venezuela, including myself, have dreamt of becoming a process engineer at PDVSA. Venezuela is an oil country, and becoming a process engineer at PDVSA is an opportunity to make positive contributions to the economy.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your role as a process engineer?
Some challenges I've faced in my career include the startup of all units after experiencing a total blackout due to external causes. Another challenge was managing the inspection and replacement of packing, trays, and catalyst in critical equipment. This included the distillation and fractionation towers, exchangers, and reactors.
It was also very challenging when I was tasked with being the only night shift process engineer responsible for the technical support of maintenance, commissioning, and start-up of units.
How is your work as a process engineer critical to your particular job assignment or industry?
As process engineers, our work is extremely important. Our main task is to keep all processes running with excellent qualities and yields for all products. To do so, we need to utilize our critical thinking and fast decision-making abilities. Additionally, we play an important part in consolidating the best results and profits within the oil industry.
What do you think is the most important thing you do as a process engineer?
A process engineer is in charge of guaranteeing the quality of all products within the refinery. This is a fundamental piece in the successful operation of every productive system. Analyzing, evaluating, solving problems, detecting failures, and recommending best practices are all important in helping the company obtain the economic benefits that it requires.