The Project Engineer’s Guide to Facility Systems Design & Installation

Section 1: Understanding the Basics of Facility Systems


Today’s processing businesses rely on highly complex, well-optimized processes to make, store, and transport their products.

The facilities where this happens are comprised of a complex framework of equipment, structures, and pathways. Whether your business is food & beverage production, oil & gas extraction, or nutritional complex creation—the components of a facility are often similar.

The major systems of a processing facility often include:

  • Cooling Systems
  • Power Distribution
  • Storage Systems
  • Material Handling
  • Packaging Systems
  • Steam Systems
  • Emission Control

Here’s the challenge—every industrial facility is a unique organism, made up of a number of process and/or utility systems. And each system is a collection of equipment, structures, and parts.

You can see, then, how it can be dangerous to scope a project based on only the equipment costs. The equipment cost is only part of the true cost consideration.

What is a “System”?

Rarely does a single piece of equipment provide the entire solution to a process unit operation challenge.

A cooling tower, for example, won’t cool without properly designed recirculation pumps, a blow down mechanism, properly specified chemical treatment, and coordination with the piping and equipment systems. These aspects that make the cooling tower perform, when combined with the cooling tower, comprise a “cooling tower system.” A cooling tower for Minnesota will be much different than a cooling tower for East Texas.

Another example is a wet scrubber. By itself, a scrubber won’t do too much without critical ancillary support devices such as a fan, a recirculation pump, often times a pH control loop, sometimes a side arm cooler, blow down, level control, and typically, an exhaust stack. Again, when all these components are assembled, they create a scrubber system.

For this reason, the project engineer must think in terms of the total system when scoping a new capital project. A system is the capital equipment, ancillary components, support structures, and connections to the rest of the plant.