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Question Regarding Process Design&engineering Consultancy And Free


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#1 daraj

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Posted 04 February 2021 - 05:42 AM

Hi All, I have a question regarding process engg consultancy especially as a freelancer. When you decide to go at it on your own and without typical corporate resources, I wonder how do the consultants in general manage 

without access to software like ASPEN PLUS/HYSYS (which are expensive to buy as an individual but are there in corporate environments)? does this limit the kind of problems that you can work on? and are there cheaper(or free) alternatives to this software for solving the engineering problems that come your way? Please let know your thoughts.

 

I am also interested to know typically what kind of problems or projects can a freelancing process modeler/engineer get that he can address without these software, thanks. (To do any kind of sizing or pinch analysis or costing or debottlenecking you do need access to some software right?)



#2 Bobby Strain

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Posted 04 February 2021 - 10:12 AM

Seems you don't have a business plan. Better develop one before you launch a consulting business. You should have already enlisted a few clients before launch. Meanwhile, keep your day job.

 

Bobby



#3 daraj

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Posted 05 February 2021 - 12:52 AM

Hi Bobby, thanks. I am just looking at these options now. But just wondering how do individual freelancers go about consultancies without access to engineering software which are prohibitively expensive? are there other methods/ways? in which case, I would like to know about them. There are few problems which you can slve without these software or using prior experience. But not having access to this software can also greatly limit what problems youcan take up



#4 Pilesar

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Posted 05 February 2021 - 08:34 AM

Unless you are a simulation guru who will be doing mostly simulation work, it will be difficult to justify the cost of software that you only use occasionally. There are advantages to being part of a company where the overhead costs are distributed. An engineer in sole practice can have high engineering software expenses. What I have seen done:
Short term licenses are available from engineering software vendors.
Include a line-item expense for software as part of the consulting job.
Get enough income to cover your overhead costs (computing hardware, software, taxes, business license, office expenses.)
Get a major consulting job that pays for your own software license and use that license for work with other clients.
Contract engineers using client's software are typically covered under the client's software license.


#5 daraj

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Posted 07 February 2021 - 02:25 AM

Hi Pilesar, thanks. IF I understand you right, there is an option for a consultant to request client to loan their software or a laptop(which has this software pre-loaded) right? Thanks, will look into this.

 

As far as your comment that only simulation type of work require software I may have  to disagree. Generating PFDs, mass balances, estimating capital costs, troubleshooting equipment like exchangers(which may need say HTRI) or a mixing problem(which may need CFD tools) or developing a conceptual design package will all require software. Like I mentioned, with just Excel you can only do so much(like say review PFDs or other documents). Correct me if Iam wrong, but what else can a consultant do without help of a software? do you have an idea?



#6 SilverShaded

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Posted 07 February 2021 - 04:21 AM

You will need to have some degree of expertise in a particular area and be well known in a particular industry to make a go of being a consultant. 

 

Some consultancy is simply advising clients how to fix a problem, not neccesarily the low level engineering of sitting down and number crunching.

In terms of software, some things can be done without it.  Pinch technology does not require a simulator.  Although in my view Pinch technology is an overated technology, it's usefull in the right situation, but common sense and experience are often more usefull.  I'd rather have an experienced engineer using some common sense than a recent graduate using pinch technology, and yes, common sense is often hard to find.

Rigorous Column simulations can be done in excel, if you know what your doing.

 

However, if you do get a software license, then there are companies that themselves do not have one, or do not know how to use it, that will hire consultants to do one off simulations.

 

BTW never believe what comes out of a simulator unless you've manually checked all the heat balances and other results, and the results are what you expected based on experience.





 


Edited by SilverShaded, 07 February 2021 - 04:23 AM.


#7 Pilesar

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Posted 07 February 2021 - 08:44 AM

"As far as your comment that only simulation type of work require software..." That was not my comment.

Engineering tools can be very expensive. Consultants get paid for results. Just because a person spends a lot of money for software does not guarantee that they will get paid to use it. If you are going to make a business of consulting, you need a business plan as Bobby Strain suggested. You should justify all your expenses, including software. A great engineer can still go broke. Even if you don't fail as an engineer, you can fail as a businessman.


Edited by Pilesar, 08 February 2021 - 12:28 AM.


#8 daraj

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Posted 08 February 2021 - 01:54 AM

silvershaded and Pilesar, It is not my intenttion to invest in software right away. I am just trying to find out or predict what sort of problerms could come my way which may be difficult to address without some software or the other. Not just simulators but equipment sizing software and costing software as well. It is difficult to predict what sort of problems can come your way but in case this is the type of problem you get you need to be prepared for it. Otherwise you limit yourself greatly. I just wanted to tap into the experience of other people here who may be consultants themselves or know people who are consultants

 

Hi silvershaded, I am curious to understand what are the kind of problems that you can get away without any engineering software. You mention pinch, but validating pinch recommendations(like say a different heat integration between exchangers) would require a rigorous simulation and correction of PFD in order to validate the recommendation. Your credibility is at stake here as a consultant. Maybe initial setup can be in excel but you may need to design or re-rate exiasting exchangers to see if the recommendation would be feasible. 

Likewise column simulations are complex business even with software. You need VLE package (column may have multiple components and impurities) and the simulator solves the complex set of equations for you. Not sure how you can set it up in excel.

I would like to know if there are any resources(online) tha can provide shortcuts or excel-based templates for simulation/design/rating/costing etc.Thanks 


Edited by daraj, 08 February 2021 - 01:58 AM.


#9 daraj

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Posted 08 February 2021 - 02:03 AM

could consulltants also help generate patents/IP for clients(with clients having the rights)?



#10 daraj

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Posted 08 February 2021 - 02:10 AM

"I'd rather have an experienced engineer using some common sense than a recent graduate using pinch technology, and yes, common sense is often hard to find."

 

silver, but  how do clients evaluate this aspect? they need to be confident enough to imlement your suggestions and for  that you may need to back your recommendations with rigorous proof like a simulation or atleast some conceptual engineering.what is they are not capable of evaluationg your recommendations? do they typically seek a second option of your recommendations?

 

also, big companies/organizations like MNCs may have their own in-house experts and rarely go outside for consulting. smaller companies are the ones who do it more often, but they also may not spend to get the license for all this software


Edited by daraj, 08 February 2021 - 02:13 AM.


#11 SilverShaded

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Posted 08 February 2021 - 03:03 AM

"I'd rather have an experienced engineer using some common sense than a recent graduate using pinch technology, and yes, common sense is often hard to find."

 

silver, but  how do clients evaluate this aspect? they need to be confident enough to imlement your suggestions and for  that you may need to back your recommendations with rigorous proof like a simulation or atleast some conceptual engineering.what is they are not capable of evaluationg your recommendations? do they typically seek a second option of your recommendations?

 

also, big companies/organizations like MNCs may have their own in-house experts and rarely go outside for consulting. smaller companies are the ones who do it more often, but they also may not spend to get the license for all this software

Firstly, simulation isn't rigorous proof of anything, engineers are far to quick to believe simulation results.  Secondly, pinch technology has very little to do with simulation. 

 

You've partly answered your own question, if an engineering company does not have a software license they are also unlikely to be able to interpret the results from a simulation correctly.  Simulation is just a guide, reality will allways differ to the simulation, often by large amounts, especially in oil refining.  You have to convince them anyway you can that your recomendations are correct and they may well get a second opinion.  That may come down to common sense.

 

A simple example, several vacuum column revamps i have seen engineering companies try to implement simply forgot that lowering a vaccum requires more heat for vaporisation, that was not available from the furnace, some common sense and basic thermodynmic knowledge would have avoided those sorts of mistakes.  Don't need a simulation for that, although a PROPERLY built simulation should have highlighted it.  There in lies the problem, too many simulations are, frankly, garbage.

I agree with you about small companies not having an expensive software license and have allready stated that above.

If your entire consulting offering is based around simulation, without a high level of expertise in a given field than you may not find many clients willing to listen.



#12 daraj

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Posted 08 February 2021 - 04:19 AM

silver, I agree that simulation is not a panacea exactly, but it makes your job a lot easier. Especially simulators like ASPEN are well known in the oil&gas/petrochemical industries and hence depending on how good the user is they can be very reliable and can throw you some insights. I am not sure if precise qualitative/quantitative recommendations can be given based on common sense alone. Even in the example you cited for the vacuum column, if I wanted to know what is the threshold vacuum you can go down to within the furnace duty limits, I may need to do some calculations. A simulation of the unit operations involved will definitely help



#13 SilverShaded

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Posted 08 February 2021 - 09:08 AM

silver, I agree that simulation is not a panacea exactly, but it makes your job a lot easier. Especially simulators like ASPEN are well known in the oil&gas/petrochemical industries and hence depending on how good the user is they can be very reliable and can throw you some insights. I am not sure if precise qualitative/quantitative recommendations can be given based on common sense alone. Even in the example you cited for the vacuum column, if I wanted to know what is the threshold vacuum you can go down to within the furnace duty limits, I may need to do some calculations. A simulation of the unit operations involved will definitely help

I agree, but if you acting as consultant peer reviewing someone elses design, you are not going to repeat the simulation but rather critique the results.  Also when you say ASPEN, make it clear whether your referring to A+ or Hysys.  Two very different simulators with different strengths and weaknesses.  There is no simulator called ASPEN.

There may be confusion of terminology by me but some guy hacking away on a peice software i would call a contract engineer, not a consultant.



#14 daraj

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Posted 08 February 2021 - 09:18 AM

pilesar, I meant to include both A+ and HYSYS under "ASPEN", depending on whichever is relevant for a particular project. I agree, that if I limit myself to only critique or review then the requirement for a dedicated license may not be needed. Most of the time though, big petrochemical/oil&gas organizations hav etheir own internal engineering teams and software licenses too.



#15 pmoneysh

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Posted 09 February 2021 - 01:28 AM

Keeping all the bad comments of using process simulation software one side but the reality is, almost all big/small companies pay a small fraction of money (though that small fraction is a good amount) for the process simulation. And as a process engineer (simulation), I am pretty sure, most of the basic engineering stuffs can be done using simulation software. Simulation engineer does not do things randomly, they need deep knowledge of thermodynamics and the process , and in many cases, would need experimental data which is provided by the client. 

 

Working as a freelancer, it is difficult for simulation engineer to survive. It is because, building a plant is a team work and the consturction company should guarantee the process to work. Unless, you work in a reliable company/ firm, no one believes you or say who knows if your simulation results are right??



#16 SilverShaded

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Posted 09 February 2021 - 03:03 AM

Keeping all the bad comments of using process simulation software one side but the reality is, almost all big/small companies pay a small fraction of money (though that small fraction is a good amount) for the process simulation. And as a process engineer (simulation), I am pretty sure, most of the basic engineering stuffs can be done using simulation software. Simulation engineer does not do things randomly, they need deep knowledge of thermodynamics and the process , and in many cases, would need experimental data which is provided by the client. 

 

Working as a freelancer, it is difficult for simulation engineer to survive. It is because, building a plant is a team work and the consturction company should guarantee the process to work. Unless, you work in a reliable company/ firm, no one believes you or say who knows if your simulation results are right??

I totally agree with your comments. 

 

With regards to bad comments about simulation, in a way im making a similar point to yourself.  A good engineering company will spend many months on a simulation checking every aspect of it to make sure its correct in every detail. (and believe me i have seen simulators where columns and heat exchangers don't heat balance and the only way to know is to manually check the heat balance).  But there are also companies that do not rigorously check results (it's cheaper not to do that) and engineers will believe the results anyway.  For grass root designs it doesn't neccesarily matter, equipment is generally going to work if its been designed sensibly, even it it doesn't come close to the simulation, it may be better or worse.  It really does matter in revamps (debottleneck/energy etc) where comparatively 'small' changes are being made and accuracy is far more important.
 



#17 daraj

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Posted 09 February 2021 - 06:33 AM

"Working as a freelancer, it is difficult for simulation engineer to survive. It is because, building a plant is a team work and the consturction company should guarantee the process to work. Unless, you work in a reliable company/ firm, no one believes you or say who knows if your simulation results are right??"

 

this is true for any freelancer, regardless of whether they use a simulator or not, right? why should i trust the recommendations of any individual consultant for that matter? But at least if he has done some calculations or run a simulation  and had filed me a report with all assumptions behind simulation listed to back up his recommendations, then my confidence could be a bit higher. I am coming from that angle.

 

The other alternative is, you do all the calculations as my client, I will just guide you, critique you and make sure you arrive at the optimal solution which is what pilesar suggested many consultants do. They dont have to be really hands on.

 

When i started this thread, I was trying to understand what type of services can an  individual freelancer provide(with or without software, thats a separate issue)to a chemical/petrochemical/oil&gas company, based on individual experiences of consultants out here. I still havent gotten a lot of info on that. Somehow the discussion digressed into whether a simulator is reliable or not which is a different topic altogether. If you ask me I will say the simulator is as good asthe engineer using it. Garbage in, garbage out. 


Edited by daraj, 09 February 2021 - 06:34 AM.


#18 Steeeveee

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Posted 26 February 2021 - 06:48 AM

Without access to these programs, it will be difficult for you to do something adequately and without any errors. You can try to find some free replacements for them, but I think it is not very correct to throw off links to them. And here you can see what companies there are and take a closer look at the resume, it might still be better to get somewhere and work calmly






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