Books you should own about Chemical engineering

There are plenty of sources for book recommendations—news sites and talk shows put out lists at the end of each year, and the New York Times can always tell you which books are currently most popular. This is great if you’re looking for a biography or a novel—but finding good books that are relevant to chemical engineering takes a bit more searching. We'd like to share a list of books, both technical and non-technical, that we think should be read by anyone who uses CHEMCAD.

Portrait of a Chemical Engineer (As a Young Man Growing Older), by Ben Horwitz

Ben Horwitz has taught chemical engineers about CHEMCAD and process simulation for years. He's a brilliant man, and a great engineer. In this book, Horwitz follows his career from his first engineering job through time as head of engineering at a global engineering firm, and concludes during the early period of his independent consultancy. Few of us will have such a varied experience in our careers. The book can be hard to find, but it’s worth the search.

Chemical Engineering in Practice, by John Edwards

Chemstations enjoyed a long-standing partnership with this book’s author, the late John Edwards. He had vast experience in applied controls and engineering, and ran P&I Design, a successful engineering company. This book teaches what he felt to be important concepts of applied engineering. We're flattered that John used CHEMCAD simulations for so much of the material. If you have young engineers working in process design or modeling (or controls, or anything vaguely related to process design), we recommend this book. It’s available in print from the P&I Design website (, or in Kindle format from Amazon.

Chemical Thermodynamics for Process Simulation, by J. Gmehling, et al.

Dr. Jürgen Gmehling is a world-renowned expert on physical properties and thermodynamics. He gathered an impressive team of authors to create this text, including CHEMCAD thermodynamics authority Dr. Jürgen Rarey. This book, now in its second edition, is a valuable reference to anyone who uses a process simulator. Published by Wiley, it is available from various resellers or directly from the publisher.

Rules of Thumb for Chemical Engineers, by Carl Branan

Ever need to guess an important number? Branan has done it already. His book gives you practical advice on how to solve many problems, and also decent guesses for numbers such as "heat transfer coefficient for this utility and this process type flow."

The Properties of Gases and Liquids, by Bruce E. Poling, et al.

Want to understand how simulators predict physical properties? Want to do a better job predicting properties for new chemicals that you add to a simulator? Read this book.

Product and Process Design Principles: Synthesis, Analysis and Design, by Warren D. Seider, et al.
Analysis, Synthesis, and Design of Chemical Processes, by Richard Turton, Wallace B. Whiting, et al.

Either of these books would be useful for a design class, or for engineers who want to teach themselves more about modeling processes with a simulator. The named authors are CHEMCAD users. We keep several copies of both books in our offices.

Refinery Process Modeling, by Gerald L. Kaes

Want to learn how to model refinery operations with a process simulator? Start with this book. Kaes talks about the bases of methods that are in your simulator, such as creation of pseudocomponents from a distillation curve. He explains refinery terms (e.g., the difference between kerosene and naphtha), and discusses modeling concerns for various equipment. Good for engineers that need to learn about refining, how to model refining operations, or both.

Phase Equilibria in Chemical Engineering, by Stanley M. Walas

Want to get into the nitty-gritty math of applied thermodynamic vapor-liquid equilibria calculations? This is the book for you. It's out of print, and it's hard to find. If you have access to a copy, you may want to skim through it to determine whether this resource is 'too technical' for you. If you don't have access to a copy, then Gmehling's book might be a better starting point, simply because it's readily available in print.

Gas Purification, by Arthur L. Kohl and Richard Nielsen

This is a great book that explains both operations and modeling of gas purification. Now in its fifth edition, it’s a great starting point to learn and understand technology paths for removal of CO2 from combustion gases, among other topics.

The Alchemy of Air, by Thomas Hager

This is a wonderful history of the development of the Haber-Bosch process, which enables us to make fertilizer commercially rather than find fertilizer in the wild. Written for a general audience, this is a book you’ll loan to friends and family so they can understand what chemical engineers do, and the far-reaching effects of one of our field’s greatest breakthroughs.