Excerpts of an interactive session with Dr. B. Basu organised by Dr. Ganesh

Chemical engineers work with ground-breaking technologies to enhance the quality of people’s lives in areas such as environmental protection, the management of resources, and controlling health and safety. They are required even in the Heavy Engineering, Power Corporations.

What is chemical engineering?

Modern society relies on the work of chemical, biochemical and process engineers – they help manage resources, protect the environment and control health and safety procedures, while developing the processes that make the products we desire or depend on. Chemical engineering is all about changing raw materials into useful products you use every day in a safe and cost-effective way. For example: petrol, plastics and synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon, all come from oil. Chemical engineers understand how to alter the chemical, biochemical or physical state of a substance, to create everything from face creams to fuels.

The Role of chemical Engineers

The Chemical engineers help in leading to advances in health care, including Technology and Medicine. They also help developing Processing Systems that more efficiently manage waste disposal. Chemical engineers play a vital role in Food Processing that help companies make food consumable in a more affordable and healthy way.

The main role of Chemical Engineers is to Design and trouble shoot processes for the Production of Chemicals, fuels, food, pharmaceuticals and biological, just to name a few. They are most often employed by large scale manufacturing Plants to maximise productivity and product quality with Minimum cost. In a nutshell, their core responsibilities revolve around three key objectives, i.e., making processes cost-effective, eco-friendly and efficient.

The Role of Chemical Engineers in Steal Plants

The conversion of iron ore to iron is in a chemical reactor. The conversion of iron to steel is another chemical reaction. The processes use vast amounts of energy and heat transfer is a major issue, both heating and cooling. Materials flow about (including quite a lot of fuel, air and water) for which fluid mechanics and control systems are required. Molten iron represents challenges for materials of containment. Crushing and grinding of solids, and solids handling are involved. Waste treatment and protection of the environment is increasingly important. Above all there is the issue of safety, which chemical engineers are more likely to have been taught than other disciplines.

In the past, steel companies employed metallurgists and mechanical engineers who took about 10 years to learn sufficient chemical engineering on the job. Now they are smart enough to recruit those with the skills for immediate use.

Metallurgists/ Metallurgical engineers usually are responsible for the development of the steel process and products at a steel mill.  A chemical engineer could work in the testing lab working on chemical analysis of steel.  Also, a chemical engineer could work on analysis of slag reactions.  Also, you could work on analysing the pickling process (e.g. inhibited acids).  Lastly, there are various rolling oils used that require engineering and frequently have chemical engineers employed.

Chemical engineers often share a fair bit of coursework with metallurgy (nowadays of material science) student in school: thermo, kinetics, heat transport, etc.  As Cory Pad stated – liquid steel metallurgy is filled with chemical reactions in steel and slag. They are also responsible for the maintenance of Batteries in Coke oven plants.

There are at present 19 Major integrated steel plants in India. SAIL (Steel Authority of India Limited) is the major public sector company in this sector and TISCO (Tata Iron and Steel Company) is the major private sector company in this industry. Today, TISCO employed 32,364 employees and the whole India, the Steel plant recruits 6.1 million people.  By and large 10% Chemical Engineers are required among all the Engineers i.e., Metallurgy, Mechanical, Electrical, Civil and Software.

The role of a chemical engineer in the cement industry spans from the very first units, all the way to packaging. Unlike most industries, cement manufacturing is completely dominated by mechanical operations with only one partially chemical step. Yet, these mechanical operations fall under the realm of chemical engineering. The various operations are:

  1. Sizing of raw material
  2. Mixing of raw material in proper amounts
  3. Ensuring homogeneity
  4. Meeting size requirements
  5. Calcination
  6. Separation based on particle size
  7. Recycle of undesirably sized particles
  8. Storage
  9. Control of dust in the air

Each of these operations, save calcination – which is a process that can be designed only by a chemical engineer; who know the mechanics, economics and technology to optimally run all these units.

Cement production reached 329 million tonnes (MT) in FY20 and is projected to reach 381 MT by FY22. However, the consumption stood at 327 MT in FY20 and will reach 379 MT by FY22. The cement production capacity is estimated to touch 550 MT by 2020. Today there are about 210+ Cement factories in India with 10 big players. The growth rate is 7-8% and expected to be 8-9% in the next 5 years. In general, 1 man is required for 1 ton of Cement production.

Job options

Jobs directly related to your degree include:

Jobs where your degree would be useful include:

Remember that many employers accept applications from graduates with a degree in any subject, so do not restrict your thinking to the jobs. The demand for chemical engineers at major chemical and pharmaceutical companies is expected to continue but at a slower pace than average through 2021. Employment is tied to the overall state of manufacturing and to the technologies used to create products (biotechnology, alternative energies, etc.)

As the biotechnology industry continues to grow, opportunities for chemical engineers with a background in biology will expand. Chemical engineering research jobs are increasing in importance with the development and implementation of new energy sources designed as substitutes for the world’s diminishing supplies of petroleum and natural gas.

Process engineering

Many chemical engineers become process engineers, when they graduate and start their career. Process engineering is essentially the application of chemical engineering principles to optimise the design, operation and control of chemical processes. Since this requires equipment design and selection, mechanical engineers may also be employed as process engineers.

Biochemical engineering

Biochemical engineering is a rapidly developing sector which takes exciting science discoveries and changes them into cost-effective and environmentally-friendly processes. Biochemical engineers use these processes to create products ranging from new medicines through to renewable energy, as well as greener solutions to waste treatment. Biochemical engineers are responsible for tackling many of today’s global challenges such as the development of vaccines to protect people against pandemic flu, stem cell therapies to cure blindness and biofuels from algae to provide more sustainable energy sources.

Job outlook and Pay Scale

Employment of chemical engineers in India is projected to grow, with the Government and Private sector jobs available aplenty. Speaking about Private Sector jobs, chemical engineering graduates can find potential opportunities in sectors such as Petrochemical industries, Petroleum refineries, Cement Factories, Food Processing and Technology units, Fertilizer Factories, Pharmaceutical industries, Biotechnology Sector, etc. Some of the top companies in India hiring chemical engineers are L & T, ONGC, Merchem Limited, Infosys, Wipro, Reliance, and Essar, among others.

Coming to the pay scale for chemical engineers, the salary is quite lucrative. Freshers can earn an average pay of INR 25,000 to INR 30,000 per month, nevertheless, on gaining experience and specific skill sets, you can earn an average of INR 5-7 Lakhs per year. While salary specifics vary in both Private and Government sectors; there are high-end salary packages for those willing to work abroad. Some of the international companies like Baker Hughes, Techconsult UK Ltd., and Swift Worldwide Resources, offer a salary of INR 1 Lakh – 3 Lakhs per month for competent professionals in chemical engineering.

Looking at the current scope and expansion of the industry, chemical engineering is considered as one of the brightest career option with huge employment opportunities available. Students aspiring to make an entry into the sector should focus on having thorough knowledge and skill sets and should pursue their engineering education from an institute that can serve as a strong backing for their profile. Most of the core companies today rely on prestigious institutions for hiring freshers through campus recruitments. So, if you are expecting to enter core companies in your chemical engineering field, it is wise to join a reputed educational institution that can provide you with industry-vetted knowledge, aptly polish your skills and talents, and support you with on-campus placements.

Work experience

Work experience is a valuable way of getting first-hand knowledge of specialised industries. If you are undecided about the area of chemical engineering, that you want to work in, try to get an in-plant placement to find out what is available. This may be a placement that is part of your degree, or one you set up yourself during the summer.

Industrial placements or In-plant trainings are a great way of building up your practical experience and skills, testing and expanding your knowledge, and establishing a network of contacts for future work opportunities. There may also be opportunities to work shadow a chemical engineer to find out more about what they do.

Work experience is available in the pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and food and drink industries. Check out the careers section of company websites for more information on the opportunities available. Search for placements and find out more about work experience and internships.

Typical employers

Employers cover a range of industrial sectors. Any company involved in large-scale conversion of raw materials into a product will require chemical engineers. You will find major employers in gas and oil extraction, oil refining, nuclear and other power generation and process industries, including pharmaceuticals, fine and heavy chemicals, and agrochemicals. Other manufacturing industries that need chemical engineers include those supplying:

  • Fibres and polymers
  • Food and drink
  • Plastic and metals
  • Pulp and paper
  • Toiletries.

Many chemical development engineers work for engineering consultancy and contracting firms. There are also opportunities to work in pollution control, environmental protection, energy conservation, waste recovery and recycling, alternative energy, medical science and health and safety. Engineers are well equipped for business roles and may also go into careers in financial services, management, consultancy or law. Find information on employers in engineering and manufacturingenergy and utilities, and other job sectors.

Skills for your CV

In addition to specific technical knowledge, a chemical engineering degree provides a sound theoretical basis for introducing new technology and advancing existing technology. You also gain an awareness of the global and societal context in which engineering solutions are applied. Transferable skills that would be useful in a range of engineering and business-related roles include:

  • Project management, through group design work
  • Resource management
  • Teamwork and leadership
  • IT skills
  • Initiative and attention to detail, through independent research
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Communication and presentation skills, developed through group work and presenting research projects.
  • Problem-solving and analytical skills

Further study

Some chemical engineering graduates go on to further study in order to gain professional status as a chartered engineer (CEng) or incorporated engineer (IEng), which helps to boost career prospects. For more information on the training needed to gain charter ship, see:

Others go on to take further study at Masters or Ph.D level in a specialist area of chemical engineering that interested them at undergraduate level. A Ph.D is essential for a career in academia and research. It is also possible for chemical engineering graduates to take postgraduate study in areas such as design, science or management. For more information on further study and to find a course that interests you, see Masters degrees and search postgraduate courses in chemical engineering.

What do chemical engineering graduates do?

Two-fifths of chemical engineering graduates are working in engineering professions six months after graduation. Of these, 22% are working as production and process engineers.

DestinationPercentage
Employed69.4
Further study12.5
Working and studying6.3
Unemployed6.5
Other5.3

 

Graduate destinations for chemical engineering

Type of work%
Engineering and building40.6
Business, HR and finance18.2
Information technology10.4
Technicians and other professionals8.4
Other22.5

 

Ten reasons to become a chemical engineer

  1. Diverse roles: In global profession a degree in chemical engineering allows you to work in many different job roles, in a variety of industries, all over the world. The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) has a membership exceeding 40,000 members in around 100 countries, indicating a thriving and like-minded global profession.
  2. Make a difference: Some professions attract the word “vocation”. Nurses and teachers are often associated with the view that it is not just about the money, but the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped someone personally and profoundly. Chemical engineers have this opportunity too – better nutrition and improved health; greater social mobility; warmth and light; protection of the environment, and many other measures valued by society are the result of chemical and biochemical engineers’ hard work.
  3. Choice of Job: Undergraduates always have a tricky decision about which course to choose, and there’s always a danger that the course they decide on could narrow their future job prospects. That isn’t the case with chemical engineering – it opens doors to biochemical engineering, chemicals, consultancy, education, food and drink, health, safety and environment, mining and minerals, oil and gas (exploration and production), oil refining, paper and packaging, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and toiletries, plastics, power generation (fossil fuels/nuclear generation or decommissioning/renewable), water, waste Management
  4. Top Notch Companies: Great (big) companies some of the world’s largest companies and biggest brands operate in the chemical and process sector. Not surprisingly, oil and gas features heavily in the top 50 companies ranked by revenue, along with energy companies and pharmaceutical suppliers.
  5. Travel and lifestyle: Chemical engineering provides some great opportunities for travel and working in different countries, helped by the high proportion of multinational companies operating in the sector. So if you want to see the world, choose chemical engineering – you’ll have plenty of chance to work abroad throughout your career. Now a days Merchant Navy is selecting Chemical Engineers apart from Army, Navy and Air force.
  6. Scope: Future proof where there are problems to solve, engineers will always be needed. For chemical and biochemical engineers, the search for sustainable solutions to our future energy, water, food and pharmaceutical needs (to name a few) will keep them busy for years to come.
  7. Proactive: On hand when it matters in times of trouble, like natural disasters, emergency teams are on the ground as soon as possible. Once their work is over, teams of people – often volunteers – replace them to help establish vital services and infrastructure like clean water, warmth and food. It is always great to know that charities involving chemical engineers are part of these invaluable teams.
  8. Career progression: With so many large employers in the sector, there is plenty of scope to progress your career as a chemical engineer. Even if you prefer to work for a smaller company, or on your own as a consultant, there is always an opportunity to choose your own career path. The China National Petroleum Corporation reportedly employs 1.6m people, and food giant the Compass Group employs over 420,000 people. Chemical engineers also work in areas such as risk and insurance, business and finance – even politics. (Competitive exams) The result is a world of opportunity for those looking for an interesting and varied career.
  9. Monetary benefits: Although money should not be the number one reason to enter a profession, getting paid a good salary for doing a job that’s interesting and rewarding is a pretty good position to be in. Chemical engineers generally feature at the top end of high earners, with graduate starting salaries in the UK of around £30,000. Median salaries for Chartered Chemical Engineers reach over £70,000 and are even higher for those working in certain industries, which all leads to a great quality of life.
  10. Diversity: The chemical engineering profession is incredibly diverse. Take, for example Shell’s Gamba site in Gabon, Africa. In addition to French-speaking Gabonese personnel, it employs a mix of staff from Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, Asia and other African countries. The senior engineers and student interns form a multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary team, which is common within our profession.

 Challenges of the Chemical Engineers in the Industries

  • Increasing sensitivity towards pollution
  • Need to improve energy efficiency (many processes are energy intensive)
  • Understanding new chemicals which are being developed wrt to their safety / stability/

production process

  • very high scale of operation (very big plants)
  • Energy savings.
  • Innovative ideas that help the mankind

How to become a Perfect Engineer?

  • Keep updated with latest technology.
  • The syllabus/courses is to be modified time to time in consultation with the academicians, Industrial experts and alumni.
  • The Projects prepared by the Engineers are to down to the earth. The “copy & paste” attitude is to be abolished. The students must know the Aim/objective of the project very well.
  • The Industrial Experts who burnt the fingers, who knows “what is what” are to involve as Project Guides.
  • Regular attendance, interaction with the Teaching staffs and Industrial Experts will make the Engineers more skilful who will have the confidence to face the challenge in the professional life.
  • Deep analytical sense, able to solve the problems, no lethargy in work, positive attitude, determination are the key areas of success in life. Such scientist cum engineer can only able to face the global challenges.
  • Strong mind, good health, having creativity, team spirit, sportsman spirit, through knowledge in the subject, attitude towards the learnings will lead the man to become a perfect Engineer.
  • He should know that there is no place for lazy, timid, excuse giving man in this world of competition.

A few tips to face Interviews

  • Get ready for GATE,
  • Prepare project work that attracts the interviewers,
  • Keep updated with latest knowledge, GK and happenings,
  • Have a good Resume,
  • Keep records of Industry visits,
  • Have sound knowledge of your subjects,
  • Know the Organisation going for interview,
  • SWOT Analysis,
  • Know about yourself.

(1) What are the major Process Control activities followed in the various Chemical Industries including yours?

  • Process control activities are carried out with the help of automation
  • Automation levels will change as per the process requirement/ plant capacity/ capital investment capability.
  • Automation can be with help of simple local instrument with manual control or can go upto the fully automated
  • New software are available for modelling and control like ASPEN etc

(2) What are the safety measures taken in the Chemical Industries?

  • Safety can be divided into two parts
  • Process safety: for which safety valves/ rupture dics/ software and hardware interlocks etc are use in addition to other process control philosophies
  • Personal safety: use of personal protective equipment’s like helmets/ hot suits/ hand gloves/ goggles/ self-breathing apparatus, fire fighting system etc.

Common misconceptions about chemical engineers.

There are plenty of stereotypes about the chemical engineering profession that simply aren’t true. Here are some of the more common misconceptions about chemical engineers and chemical Engineering.

The majority of chemical engineers are male, but actually, about one in four chemical engineers entering the profession in the UK are female – 28% of last year’s UK chemical engineering undergraduate intake were women. In total Engineering Industries the female % is 34%. However, work is still needed to improve not only the proportion of women in chemical engineering, but also to improve other areas of diversity, equality and inclusion such as disability, ethnicity or religion. The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) has signed up to the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Diversity & inclusion in engineering programme to help tackle these issues.

Industry Scenario

Market size of the Chemicals industry in India stood at $180 bn in 2019. The production of Total Major Chemicals and Petrochemicals in 2019-20 (upto September 2019) was 13,871 thousand MT. CAGR (compound annual growth rate) in production of Total Chemicals and Petrochemicals during the period 2014-15 to 2018-19 is 4.78%. Alkali Chemicals accounts for around 71% of the total production of Major Chemicals for the year 2019-20 (up to September 2019).

  • The petrochemical demand is expected to grow at 7.5% CAGR from FY 2019-2023, with

polymer demand growing at 8%.

  • The agrochemicals market in India is expected to grow at 8% CAGR reaching $3.7 bn by

FY22 and $4.7 bn by FY25.

  • The specialty chemicals constitute 18% of total chemicals and petrochemicals market in

India. As of FY19, the total market size is around $32 bn. The demand for speciality chemicals is expected to grow at 12% CAGR from FY19-22.

segments and their progress statistics are as below:

  • Inorganic chemicals constitute one of the major segments of the country’s total chemical

production. A growth rate of 9 percent is recorded for the segment that includes alkalis, fertilizers and detergents as main chemicals.

  • Drugs and pharmaceuticals are among the most exported chemicals from India. This

segment of the Indian chemical industry ranks at 4th position in the world. The growth rate of 8 to 9 percent is recorded by the segment.

  • Agro-chemical productsinclude pesticides and fertilizers as the main chemicals in this

category. The 10 percent domestic market growth rate is recorded by this segment.

  • Dyes and paints segment has a growth rate of about 12 percent. The segment also includes

polymers and other related chemicals.

  • Petrochemicals in the Indian chemical manufacturing industry have the fastest growth rate

of 15 percent.

  • Considering the growth trends in different sections of the chemical industry in India, one

can easily place the industry among major contributors towards the overall growth of the country’s economy. To improve the sales network for the Indian chemicals, the manufacturers and suppliers need to rely upon the online b2b networks. The b2b directories are the places where small and medium sized chemical manufacturing enterprises can gain more benefits.

GDP Of India

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in India was worth 2875.14 billion US dollars in 2019, according to official data from the World Bank and projections from Trading Economics. The GDP value of India represents 2.39 percent of the world economy.

India`s GDP Growth Rate, Historical Data
YearGDP% growthYearGDP % growth
20195.0220147.41
20186.1220136.39
20177.0420125.46
20168.2620115.24
20158.0020108.50

Source: World Bank

GDP is varying for different reasons because of Price index, Export market world Petroleum price. But growth will remain persistent.

The continuous growth rate in GDP of India contributed by Chemical Industries can be seen in the Fig. The year 2020 has shown less figures because of slack down in the Industries.

Conclusion

The chemical industry is among the most diversified industrial sectors and includes basic  chemicals and its products, petrochemicals, fertilisers, paints, gases, pharmaceuticals, dyes, etc. The sector covers over 70,000 commercial products, and provides the feedstock to many downstream industries such as finished drugs, dyestuffs, paper, synthetic rubber, plastics, polyester, paints, pesticides, fertilisers and detergents. The industry has a 14% weightage in the overall Index of Industrial Production (IIP) which gives an indication of its importance in the country’s industrial growth. A robust chemical industry ushers in many economic and strategic benefits for the nation. As on March 31, 2019, the size of the Indian chemical industry was estimated at around USD 35 bn and 3% of India’s GDP. The Indian chemical sector accounts for 13-14% of total exports and 8-9% of total imports of India. In terms of volume of production, it is the twelfth-largest in the world and the third-largest in Asia.

Currently, the per capita consumption of products of the Indian chemical industry is one-tenth of the world average, which reflects the huge potential for further growth. The issues like inadequate technologies, skilled labour, environmental norms and need to innovate remain a threat to the industry. Only 9.3% Engineers are unemployed. That because of their own lacuna. Analytical skills.  Creativity.  Ingenuity.  Interpersonal skills.  Math skills.  Problem- solving skills are the requirements for the Chemical Engineers.