Expertise in Chemical Process Modeling – The Importance of Problem Formulation and Pattern Recognition

ChEMS Seminar

Featuring: Dr. Paul M. Mathias

Fluor Corporation

Aliso Viejo, Calif.


Chemical process modeling is based upon a small set of very general equations, and then particular problems are treated as a special case of these fundamental equations.  This quantitative approach has produced engineers with strong mathematical skills, and the development of powerful software that rapidly provides rigorous solutions to highly complex problems.  The powerful software has resulted in significant productivity improvements, but an unintended consequence is that chemical engineers have lost a tacit understanding of physical properties and process behavior, and, as a result, process designs have suffered and the trouble-shooting skills of chemical engineers have diminished.  In other words, chemical engineers are not attaining process expertise.

So, how do we improve the modeling expertise of chemical engineers?  This presentation demonstrates that problem formulation and pattern recognition are key elements to attaining process-modeling expertise.  Interestingly, key solutions to the problem are enabled by software advances, namely the easy availability of comprehensive property databases and easy access to graphics and visualization.


Dr. Mathias received his Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Florida, is a chemical technologist with over 30 years of broad experience and a specialization in properties and process modeling.  He currently works as a Technology Director and Senior Fellow at Fluor Corporation, he also teaches courses at the University of California, Irvine. His experience covers petroleum, inorganics, gas processing, electrolytes and polymers and he has fifty eight publications and eighty technical presentations.