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A process flow diagram (PFD) is a diagram commonly used in chemical and process engineering to indicate the general flow of plant processes and equipment. The PFD displays the relationship between major equipment of a plant facility and does not show minor details such as piping details and designations. Another commonly used term for a PFD is flowsheet.

Typical content of a process flow diagram

Some typical elements from process flow diagrams, as provided by the open source program, Dia. Click for image legend.
Some typical elements from process flow diagrams, as provided by the open source program, Dia. Click for image legend.

Typically, process flow diagrams of a single unit process will include the following:

Process flow diagrams generally do not include:

Process flow diagrams of multiple process units within a large industrial plant will usually contain less detail and may be called block flow diagrams or schematic flow diagrams.

Process flow diagram examples

The process flow diagram below depicts a single chemical engineering unit process known as an amine treating plant:

Flow diagram of a typical amine treating process used in industrial plants
Flow diagram of a typical amine treating process used in industrial plants

Multiple process units within an industrial plant

The process flow diagram below is an example of a schematic or block flow diagram and depicts the various unit processes within a typical oil refinery:

A typical oil refinery-SL
A typical oil refinery-SL

Other items of interest

A PFD can be computer generated from process simulators (see List of Chemical Process Simulators), CAD packages, or flow chart software using a library of chemical engineering symbols. Rules and symbols are available from standardization organizations such as DIN, ISO or ANSI. Often PFDs are produced on large sheets of paper.

PFDs of many commercial processes can be found in the literature, specifically in encyclopedias of chemical technology, although some might be outdated. To find recent ones, patent databases such as those available from the United States Patent and Trademark Office can be useful.

Standards

See also

Further reading