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Career Connections: Chemical Engineer

6 minutes

(man) A chemical engineer takes a small process and makes it into a bigger process. A chemist would figure out a way to make a small amount of something, a few grams of a product. A chemical engineer figures out a way to scale that process up and make 100,000 pounds, a million pounds of that same material. Chemical engineers work with those same processes, once they've been developed, to improve them, troubleshoot them, and keep them running the way they're supposed to be running.

[line ringing]

Hello, this is Tommy. Tommy, it's Charlie. How's it going? Good. How's our analyzer looking? That's what I'm checking.

(LeBlanc) My main responsibilities at the refinery are as the leader of operations for a quarter of the refinery. We process the raw crude oil straight from the oil fields. It comes into our tank farm and into our crude units. Our job is to process those and make the initial separation of that crude oil into products which turn into diesel, jet fuel, and gasoline. We also produce a number of specialty chemicals, but our job is to take that raw material and feed the remaining process units in the refinery. It's important for us to do that well because an issue with the crude unit, causes an issue through the entire plant. DM points are 640 to 650.

(LeBlanc) I attend meetings, try to coordinate efforts across the refinery. I spend time on the computer working on projects or initiatives that we're trying to move forward to improve the refinery. We spend time in the field making sure that jobs are being completed the way they should. Doing things like safety audits and environmental audits to make sure we're complying with all regulations to be a good neighbor and to run our business the way we need to run it. For a student who's thinking of becoming a chemical engineer or an engineer of any type, some key things to study would be math and science. We use those all the time. Another big part of our job is communication and passing our ideas and our knowledge and things we want to accomplish, getting other people onboard with those ideas, so a really important and overlooked aspect of our job is the writing piece and the communication piece. It's very, very important. You could have the best idea, but if you can't communicate that it's worth pursuing, then it won't go anywhere. Chemical engineers are found throughout the manufacturing industry-- refining, obviously, but then there are all kinds of chemical producers, pharmaceutical companies that would hire chemical engineers to help optimize those processes like they do at the refineries. Outside of manufacturing, the government hires chemical engineers to work in some of their agencies. Most of the industrial concerns out there will have some amount of chemical engineering. I have a bachelor of science in chemical engineering. A degree from a university, in chemical engineering, would be enough to get you into the field. A lot of the universities out there have very beneficial programs called co-op programs, where a student will get some work experience during school as they progress through their college education. They can partner with an employer and spend three or four semesters alternating between working for that employer and taking classes at school. And the benefit of this is enormous. Colleges that have co-op programs do their students a very great service because as they graduate, they've got a full year of experience in industry and get a leg up going into the job market. I have the best job in the world. An oil refinery is a playground for a chemical engineer. Everything you need to be a chemical engineer-- how to design, we have those things at a refinery. We have 'em in spades. This is not a field where we look back at our education and say, "I never use that." We use it every day.

Funding to purchase and make this educational production accessible was provided by the U.S. Department of Education:

PH: 1-800-USA-LEARN (V) or WEB: www.ed.gov.

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Follow a chemical engineer at an oil refinery as he interacts with team members and uses technology to keep the refinery working at optimum levels. He also offers advice on educational and co-op opportunities for becoming a chemical engineer. Part of the "Career Connections" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 6 minutes

Career Connections
Episode 1
5 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 2
6 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 3
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 4
5 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 5
5 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 6
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 7
7 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 8
7 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 9
6 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 10
6 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12