Chemical production is a broad category that includes manufacturing chemicals for agricultural, pharmaceutical, construction and manufacturing applications, to name a few. Chemical companies, which may range from small producers of specialty chemicals to large global corporations, produce chemicals to meet industry demands in a variety of fields. The study of chemical production as a whole includes advanced engineering, production support and maintenance, and efficient materials handling operations.
Although the variety of chemicals produced by chemical companies is staggering in size, most plants follow a basic system for production. The feedstock chemicals, which serve as the reactants to make the final product, must first be prepared and transported to the chemical plant. Once the feedstocks have been prepared, they are sent to a reactor in which the necessary chemical reactions occur to form the product. From the reactor, the unused feedstock, byproducts and desired products are sent to a purification system. After the final product is purified, it is sent for packaging or shipped via pipeline to a customer.
Chemical production involves knowledge of chemical feedstocks, a deep understanding of various chemical reactions and production methods, and knowledge of logistics. The chemical plant incorporates aspects of all of these features and is the heart of any chemical production operation. Chemical plants usually run on a continuous basis, meaning production never stops unless there is a plant emergency, malfunction or scheduled shutdown for maintenance.
To run a chemical plant, a range of personnel is required. Chemical engineers are responsible for developing new processes and optimizing existing processes. Operations specialists, or operators, are responsible for the daily tasks associated with taking process measurements, operating equipment and monitoring process performance. Laboratory personnel and technicians are required for quality assurance and non-routine analyses required by the engineers. Maintenance and support personnel, such as mechanics, mechanical engineers and electrical engineers, are responsible for supporting the plant's operating systems.
Chemical production is an important field, because most industries require chemicals in some way or another. Chemical companies meet industry demand by manufacturing a wide range of products. These products can range from specialized chemicals that are made in small batches to general usage, large-volume chemicals. Industries must constantly develop new methods and products to keep up with the chemical demands of residential, commercial and industrial usage.
Traditionally, the chemical industry divides chemical production into seven categories. These categories include the basic chemical segment; the synthetic materials segment; the agricultural chemicals segment; the painting, coating, and adhesives segment; the cleaning preparations segment; the pharmaceutical segment; and a miscellaneous segment. In a much broader sense, chemical production is often divided into a segment for basic chemicals and a segment for specialty chemicals.