Explore this topic

Overview of Process Equipment

Much of the equipment used in the refining and processing industries is known as Process Equipment. Most pieces of process equipment are designed to perform specific, singular tasks. Process equipment can be used for tasks a varied as storage, controlling flow, and containing chemical reactions.

There are two major types of process equipment: Fixed Equipment and Rotating Equipment.

Fixed equipment refers to any piece of process equipment that generally does not move. Fixed equipment is also sometimes known as static equipment and includes, but is:

Rotating equipment generally refers to any process equipment that moves or rotates. This type of equipment is most often used to drive process fluids through a system and includes:

  • turbines 
  • pumps
  • compressors
  • gearboxes
  • engines

When designing process equipment, it is important to take into consideration the kind of environment in which the equipment will be operating. It’s important to design the equipment so that it resists corrosion and other damage mechanisms likely to occur in that particular environment. Likewise, proper inspection and maintenance schedules are also integral in order to ensure the continued safety and functionality of the equipment over its lifespan.

101 Essential Elements Banner

Is this definition incomplete? You can help by contributing to it.

Share this Topic

Articles about Process Equipment
  • September/October 2017 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Daniel Cypriano at Petrobras, and Henrique Ventura at Petrobras

    Although value-drivers often differ between facilities, all can agree that effective asset management strategies should lead to better decision making. In this case study, the authors detail how process-based risk management strategies can make for improved use of equipment.

  • Online Article

    Vacuum distillation plays a critical role in improving yields for petroleum refiners by producing high-value petroleum products out of the heavier oils left over from atmospheric distillation. When short-term disturbances cause temporary cooling challenges, these units could benefit from supplemental equipment that can help control the process operation temperature.

  • November/December 2003 Inspectioneering Journal
    By George L. Getz at The George Company

    The following article on the art and science of cooling tower inspections is part one in a series. This first is a primer. We recommend that readers consider using this article to edit their engineering practices for cooling tower inspection against. Subsequent articles will cover case histories.

  • September/October 2015 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Harold Marburger at Dunn Heat Exchangers

    This article is Part II of a three-part series that explores the various methods, benefits, challenges and solutions to efficiently and effectively clean heat exchangers, both onsite and offsite.

  • September/October 2015 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Brad Moore at PinnacleART

    Operators in all industries are trying to increase equipment availability, yet oftentimes critical process equipment is not available due to planned or unplanned maintenance. To increase equipment availability, steps must be taken to reduce downtime. One way to achieve this is to ensure that spare parts are organized and available in the event repairs are needed.

  • Partner Content

    PinnacleART’s engineers and inspectors can help your facility define, prioritize and mitigate risks within your facility. Let our team build, implement and maintain a comprehensive mechanical integrity and RBI program for your pressure vessels, heat exchangers, towers, storage tanks, piping, pump casings, pressure relief valves, critical check valves and more.

  • Blog
    October 21, 2015 By Nick Schmoyer at Inspectioneering

    Toward the end of last year, Inspectioneering conducted a survey with the goal of answering the following question: "How many pressure vessels do facilities have compared to the number of inspectors responsible for them?" The answer to this question is an important metric for developing proper plant inspection staffing numbers. Inspection managers, among other facility decision-makers, may benefit by knowing this ratio relative to what exists at their own site.

  • July/August 2015 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Robert Frater at Engineering & Inspection Services, LLC

    Refinery, petrochemical, and storage tank operators are responsible for properly cleaning facility tanks on a periodic maintenance basis, typically in 20 to 30 year increments. This article provides a suggested “checklist” of inspection activities to ensure safe and reliable operations after cleaning.

  • Blog
    August 24, 2015 By Jeff Vollmer at Engineering & Inspection Services, LLC

    Google “pump troubleshooting” and you will likely find multiple articles telling you that if your impeller has the wrong clearance, you will have a loss of capacity, or if your impeller is damaged, it could be the result of this or that. I didn’t want to just recreate one of those lists.

  • January/February 2015 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Harold Marburger at Dunn Heat Exchangers

    Whether onsite or offsite, the methods for cleaning shell and tube heat exchangers can vary. Refining and petrochemical operators will agree that high standards must be employed with each method. Choosing the right method can make the difference between smooth operations and unforeseen equipment shutdowns.

  • January/February 2015 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Fred Schenkelberg at FMS Reliability

    Reliability engineering tools and concepts can be used to avoid or delay failures, thus increasing product service life. Design or maintenance teams use reliability engineering techniques to identify failures and their causes.

  • Partner Content

    Training options to meet your needs. E²G contracts with API to deliver training programs for FFS, Risk–Based Inspection, Damage Mechanisms, and Pressure Relieving Systems. ETI and Customized Training offers specialized courses based on industry expertise and client needs.

  • July/August 2013 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Marc McConnell, P.E. at Pro-Surve Technical Services

    Who at your facility “owns” injection point hardware? Typically, injection point hardware falls into the “Gray Zone”.

  • January/February 2013 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Ana Benz at IRISNDT

    In this article you will find the failure investigations of six 0.094 inch thick carbon steel vessels. These vessels were in service in natural gas well facilities; some functioned as dryers and were subjected to cyclic loads. Metallographic tests, hardness tests, and fracture surface scanning electron microscopy (SEM) examination results are presented for each of the vessels.

  • July/August 2012 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Cliff Knight, P.E. at KnightHawk Engineering, Inc.

    Steam turbines exist in most every major industrial facility. Many of these turbines have been running for years and have been very stable. Typically, after a period of time, the equipment is shut down for maintenance during a planned outage. It is more common than not that the turbine will experience problems after the shutdown and perhaps even failure or high vibration will occur.

  • July/August 2012 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Robert C. Davis at The Equity Engineering Group, Inc.

    At most operating facilities, a significant amount of time, effort, and money is expended on problem flanged joints that repeatedly leak. Joints that are repeatedly tightened online, that require installation of leak clamps, or that have resulted in unplanned outages to fix leaks are costly and unsafe.

  • March/April 2012 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Fernando Vicente at ABB

    Air-cooled heat exchangers (AC-HEs) are used extensively throughout the oil and gas industry, from upstream production to refineries and petrochemical plants, under high pressure and high temperature conditions, as well as corrosive fluids and environments. Some defects and discontinuities can be introduced during the heat exchanger manufacturing process and are not necessarily found as part of QA/QC inspections.

  • Partner Content

    FFS assessment techniques are applicable to a wide range of damage types: LTA's, cracks, creep damage, dents, and more. These are very powerful analytical tools that often allow operators to not only keep the plant running, but to keep it running safely.

  • May/June 2011 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Del Underwood at Det Norske Veritas

    In two previous issues we discussed the important difference between steady and cyclic loading, and why loose bolts fail while tight ones do not. This issue will offer two suggestions for reducing the tendency for bolts to become loose.

  • March/April 2011 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Del Underwood at Det Norske Veritas

    In the previous issue we dealt with the fact that bolts can withstand significantly less cyclic loading than steady loading. We are now looking at the mechanics of why bolts fail if flanges are allowed to separate during operation.

  • March/April 2011 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Lyle Breaux P.E. at Stress Engineering Services, Inc., Eric Luther P.E. at Stress Engineering Services, Inc., and Scott McNeill Ph.D., P.E. at Stress Engineering Services

    The most common equipment vibration problems are often solved in industry without the use of specialty engineering resources. Routine vibration problems-from machinery imbalance and misalignment to simple cases of noise and resonance-are often addressed at the plant level without help from consultants.

  • January/February 2011 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Del Underwood at Det Norske Veritas

    A continually frustrating phenomenon to many of us is the situation where a tight bolt will function satisfactorily, but in the same situation, a loose bolt will fail...

  • September/October 2009 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Warren Brown at The Equity Engineering Group, Inc., Wayne McKenzie at Syncrude Canada, and Shane Ryan at Syncrude Canada

    Leakage of pressure vessel and piping bolted joints in refineries is an unnecessary hazard, with high associated cost, that can be easily rectified using currently available technology. There have been advances in gasket testing technology in recent years that have allowed great improvements to be made in the specification of gaskets for refinery applications. This minimizes the likelihood of joint leakage and results in reduce operating cost. In addition, there have also been advances in joint assembly procedures that have enabled significant reduction in joint assembly times, while resulting in a better final gasket stress distribution and therefore lower likelihood of leakage.

  • Partner Content

    The Vanta handheld XRF is Olympus’ first full spectrum PMI analyzer that is IP65 rated and drop tested. The analyzer provides accurate, repeatable material chemistry and alloy grade matching in as little as 1–2 seconds. Operation is simple with an intuitive touch screen and swipe interface. Optional Wi-Fi, with the Olympus Scientific Cloud, provides seamless connectivity for efficient data and fleet management.

  • March/April 2008 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Vincent Summa at TechCorr Inspection & Engineering

    A unique technique for inspecting the floors of aboveground storage tank's (AST) emerged in the late 90's based on in-service robotic technology. The technology has come a long way since then, with new inspection and tank cleaning capabilities, greater operational efficiency and a much broader user base. The number of tanks inspected using in-service robotics has now exceeded the 700 mark.

  • September/October 2005 Inspectioneering Journal
    By M.Z. Umar at Malaysian Nuclear Agency, Nassir B. Ibrahim, Dr, Ab., and Razak B. Hamzah at Malaysian Institute for Nuclear Technology Research (MINT)

    Is calibration of NDT or any other equipment necessary? The answer is certainly Yes! But a question still arises. Why? Because in the case of NDT it is required by national and international standards. Many NDT standards require that a system of periodic calibration and maintenance must exist for any facility that performs nondestructive testing. For instance, ASTM E-1212 Section 9.2.2 mentions that all measuring and test equipment shall be calibrated and controlled to insure accuracy of measurement of products and processes to a specified requirement. So why would we even need to ask the question? Because many institutes and research organizations do not have periodic calibration and maintenance programs and are not required to have such programs except for safety related work!

  • July/August 2005 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Mark Bagnell at Equipment Management & Inspection

    Aging phenolic resin reactors built in the 1960's were constructed of SA304 stainless steel, many of which were originally fabricated to ASME Section VIII standards were never registered as such nor with the National Board. Some of these reactors have been exhibiting stress corrosion cracking, (SCC) in the shell plate where external carbon steel structural components such as support legs and vacuum rings are attached. The problem is observed primarily at the interface of support legs where reinforcing pads or "poison" pads have not been installed. Of the vessels inspected to date approximately 50% have been identified as having SCC.

  • July/August 2005 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Jonathan D. Dobis at The Equity Engineering Group, Inc., and David N. French

    This bulletin is part of a series of WRC Bulletins that contain the technical background and other information to evaluate damage mechanisms in various industries to facilitate the use of API 579. These bulletins, shown below, will be updated based on the latest knowledge and technology developed for identification of damage mechanisms.

  • May/June 2005 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Julian Speck at TWI Ltd., and Amin Muhammed at TWI

    Current BSI and ASME codes for the construction of pressure vessels, boilers and piping specify that post-weld heat treatment is required if the thickness of the components being welded exceeds a specified value. This value depends on the type of material being used, and varies from code to code. An alternative procedure is available for deciding whether or not PWHT is necessary to avoid the risk of failure by fracture. This involves conducting a fracture mechanics assessment using procedures such as those in BSI 7910, or API 579. The use of these procedures is permitted in the British pressure vessel standard BS PD 5500:2003.

  • Partner Content

    ProSource Radiography Services, a sister company and subsidiary of Pro-Surve is ready to tackle your radiography needs. Should you need a small bore piping survey or other need for computed radiography. ProSource can take conventional film, and convert them to digital files for easy naming and storage. ProSource is ready to be your Sole-Point-Of-Contact (SPOC) for your radiography needs.

  • July/August 2004 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Jonathan D. Dobis at The Equity Engineering Group, Inc., Dana G. Williams at Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC, and David L. Bryan, Jr. at Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC

    The following is the final part of a 2 part series. Part 1 covered the following considerations that are critical in establishing effective reliability and inspection programs for these complex units: - HF Alkylation Process Description - An extensive explanation of how HF alky unit process conditions affect corrosion for the various sections of these types of units. The abstract, introduction, explanation of terms, references, figures and a typical unit PFD are reiterated in part 2 as reference materials.

  • January/February 2004 Inspectioneering Journal
    By John Reynolds at Intertek

    Casting defects are an age old problem for our industry that seems to be getting worse as foundries in the older industrialized world shutdown for economic reasons.

  • May/June 2003 Inspectioneering Journal
    By David R. Hall at Longview Inspection

    Many of the guyed flare stacks and wire rope or strand supported structures in use in U.S. and overseas refineries, pipelines and chemical plants were erected in the 1950's, 60's and 70's. Some were built even earlier. While many of the components of these structures have been routinely inspected by various methods of testing, the wire rope and strand that support and hold these structures in position have, typically, been taken for granted and only elementary visual inspections have been performed. Wire rope and strands in sedentary environments deteriorate and lose their working capability due to many factors. These factors exist both internally and externally.

  • March/April 2001 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Deal Moore at NDE Seals, Inc.

    Determination of the mechanical integrity of pipe and equipment in US process industries has evolved from day to day business to federal mandate (OSHA 1901.119) to a part of industry best practice. Insulated pipe and equipment pose specific challenges for the examination effort. This article is an attempt to review the regulations that are driving these efforts and the innovations designed to address these challenges. Understanding both will enhance the value added services offered by the insulation industry.

  • May/June 1999 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Del Underwood at Det Norske Veritas

    In two previous issues we discussed the important difference between steady and cyclic loading, and why loose bolts fail while tight ones do not. This issue will offer two suggestions for reducing the tendency for bolts to become loose.

  • Partner Content

    Let Pro-Surve identify corrosion on your flange raised faces while your unit remains in operation. Using phased array TFM, custom transducers and proven procedures Pro-Surve technicians identify corrosion on flange raised faces from the flange outside diameter. Identify scope for pipe spools for turnaround pre-fabrication using this technique. Identify flanges needing replacement or re-machining.

  • January/February 1999 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Del Underwood at Det Norske Veritas

    In the previous issue, we dealt with the fact that bolts can withstand significantly less cyclic loading then steady loading. We are now looking at the mechanics of why bolts fail if flanges are allowed to separate during operation.

  • July/August 1997 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Lynne Kaley at Trinity Bridge LLC / Trinity Bridge Digital, and Ricardo R. Valbuena at DNV Inc

    Damage of carbon steel pressure vessels due to various in-service damage mechanisms continues to be a serious concern in the refining and petrochemical industries. A survey conducted in 1990 by the NACE T-8-16 Work Group to determine the nature and extent of cracking problems in wet H2S refinery environments showed that there was insufficient information reported about the type of cracking found to correlate cracking incidence with cracking mechanisms. Most of the inspections for cracking reported were detected during internal inspection using Wet Fluorescent Magnetic Particle Testing (WFMPT). As a result, it was concluded that in addition to the service related cracks reported, a number of "cracks" detected were the result of original fabrication, repair or alteration of the pressure vessels.

  • July/August 1997 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Del Underwood at Det Norske Veritas

    In a past issue, we discussed one solution to the instrument line block valve pendulum problem. This was where the valve assembly can be mounted remotely from the vibrating product line, such as at-grade. This issue covers two possibilities where the valves need to remain close to the vibrating line.

  • May/June 1997 Inspectioneering Journal

    Case 1: Fuel Gas to Boilers in boiler house: in 1992 two flanges were installed for installation of knock blinds. No degassing was completed. Both welds were radiographed and noted as acceptable. Case 2: Alky Unit Flare Header: No degassing completed in 1993 on multiple tie-ins. All of these tie-ins were radiographed and noted as acceptable. Case 3: Alky Unit flare Header: No degassing completed in 1993 on multiple tie-ins, all of these tie-ins were radiographed and noted as acceptable.

  • May/June 1996 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Del Underwood at Det Norske Veritas

    This final issue on gusset problems will discuss why gussets are "stiffeners" rather than "strengtheners." The effective load bearing capacity of a member of given strength is based upon how large a cross-sectional area is carrying the load. Gussets are commonly welded to tubular members to reduce their flexure under a bending load.

  • January/February 1996 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Del Underwood at Det Norske Veritas, and Tim Munsterman at Det Norske Veritas

    Last issue, in keeping with the evaluation that "gussets are stiffeners, not strengtheners," we discussed welding around the ends of the gusset plate instead of just along the sides in order to reduce the stress concentration. A further improvement in the gusset life can be obtained by welding it to a reinforcing plate and/or a fitting instead of directly to the pipe.

  • January/February 1996 Inspectioneering Journal
    By George Jones at ERA Technology, Inc.

    On-line condition monitoring concepts which have originally been applied to vibration monitoring of rotating equipment are now being applied to monitoring the structural integrity of power plant components. Market demand for more flexible plant operation is dictating the need to reduce operating costs by demanding increased run times and reliability and by reducing the length of outages.

  • September/October 1995 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Del Underwood at Det Norske Veritas

    A key to any piping evaluation program is to understand where problems can occur. Vibrating piping can propagate a crack relatively quickly. Have you ever installed gussets to stabilize a vibrating pipe situation only to find, shortly thereafter, that the gussets have cracked the pipe? If so, you've got lots of company.

    Videos related to Process Equipment
      White Papers related to Process Equipment
        Downloads & Resources related to Process Equipment
          Events related to Process Equipment
            News related to Process Equipment

              Inspectioneering Journal

              Explore over 20 years of articles written by our team of subject matter experts.

              Company Directory

              Find relevant products, services, and technologies.

              Job Postings

              Discover job opportunities that match your skillset.

              Case Studies

              Learn from the experience of others in the industry.

              Event Calendar

              Find upcoming conferences, training sessions, online events, and more.

              Industry News

              Stay up-to-date with the latest inspection and asset integrity management news.


              Read short articles and insights authored by industry experts.


              Commonly used asset integrity management and inspection acronyms.

              Asset Intelligence Reports

              Download brief primers on various asset integrity management topics.


              Watch educational and informative videos directly related to your profession.

              Expert Interviews

              Inspectioneering's archive of interviews with industry subject matter experts.