Texas Tech Pilot Plant
At Morrow Energy, we believe that community involvement and investing in our industry, by investing in future engineers, will create stronger leaders within our industry. When we found that the Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas Tech University (TTU) had no pilot plant to practice hands on and that the university was already seeking for a solution to the problem, we decided to partner with them by donating one. “One of the things we’ve always suffered from is that our students don’t really get to see process equipment, so they don’t really even know what things look like. In the classroom, we represent these things with boxes,” said Mark Vaughn director of undergraduate studies and a professor of chemical engineering.
The result of this community involvement project was that we donated a 1.2 million dollar plant to TTU. Our Texas-based project manager, Paul Rogers, had a clear concept for this project. He stated that the plant was intentionally designed to give students the widest possible exposure to different types of equipment that they may experience in the field. Therefore, the pilot plant was not designed simplistically. It is not only capable of producing dry gas but also able to refine impurities. The plant consists of two different kinds of distillation columns, one trayed and one packed. The double T piping design is made to challenge students’ abilities to measure fluid flow and friction. The students are also able to experiment with different settings and pumps to experience the difficulties they may face while working on site. “It’s got all the bells and whistles: a bunch of different types of pumps, different types of heat exchangers, different types of industrial equipment, people might use in industry, so we really decked it out. Wherever we could fit a transmitter or an instrument or a gauge, we put it on there so you can get all kinds of readings and you can learn more. You get a firm grasp on thermodynamics and do projects in class to understand the process, but understanding the process and physically putting it together is totally different. Being able to put your hands on it will make a big difference, I hope.” Said Rogers.
The university is planning to use the pilot plant in lessons and tests to increase the capabilities of their students. With a hands-on experience, this drastically gives the engineering students of TTU a tremendous advantage over their contemporaries upon graduation. Since completion of the Pilot Plant, TTU has now become one of the few universities in the country that has the facilities to provide training in a real-world setting for students.
“Now we have a piece of equipment we can bring students out and show them. Many courses are set to teach the students how things work in real-world” said Mark Vaughn. “The equipment will be used from the first freshman-level course in which students learn how to recognize equipment all the way up through senior-level courses where students learn equipment design. The plant also will be used as a real-world example in the process safety course in which students perform hazard and risk assessments then learn how to mitigate such risks through their unit design.” In a press release, Sindee Simon, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Horn Professor and Whitacre Department thanked Morrow for their donation. “This facility will provide our students with a unique hands-on experience operating and controlling industrial-size equipment, Texas Tech chemical engineers are known for their common sense and practical knowledge. The Morrows’ generous donation will ensure that the next generation of chemical engineering Red Raiders follows in this tradition.”
The university’s vice president of research, Joseph A. Heppert, also expressed his gratitude and explained the benefits the project will provide to aspiring engineers. “Our institution is so grateful to Morrow Energy and to the other corporate donors who have offered their funding and expertise to provide Texas Tech engineering students with outstanding hands-on learning environments. Texas Tech chemical engineering students will graduate with experiences that will set them apart from their peers and prepare them in a unique way for their future careers.”