A chemical plant is an industrial facility designed for the purpose of processing and producing chemicals. Chemical plants can be found all over the world, producing a wide range of products, from photographic chemicals used in developing rooms to herbicides sprayed on commercially produced crops. Numerous specialty facilities such as wastewater treatment plants operate using methods similar to those seen at chemical plants.
At a chemical plant, the goal is to produce new chemicals, or to process chemical products. A variety of processing techniques are used, depending on what the plant manufactures, and most chemical plants make many different types of chemicals which are related to each other. A common feature of chemical plants is large vats or tanks where chemicals are processed and stored.
Many chemical plants are located in industrial areas and near shipping or rail lines so that their products can be moved easily. Safety is a major concern for facilities where chemicals are made and processed, as mistakes at a chemical plant can be very dangerous and chemical plants are vulnerable to acts of sabotage and terrorism. As a result, chemical plants are usually required to undergo regular safety inspections which confirm that the plant is operating safely, and the facilities have extensive security to protect the plant from external threats.
Chemical engineers are typically responsible for chemical plant design, developing designs which will meet the needs of the plant and provide room for growth and expansion. Chemical engineers also work in chemical plants, supervising production and managing safety programs in addition to developing new manufacturing and processing techniques. Other staff at chemical plants include security guards, technicians, and administrators who process orders and requests for chemicals.
One specialized form of chemical plant, the petrochemical plant, works exclusively with chemicals derived from oil. Petrochemical processing facilities are often located next to oil refineries for convenience, with the two facilities sharing security staffs and moving goods efficiently between the plants as needed.
Growing concerns about the environment in the late 20th century led to increasingly tough regulation of chemical plants. Facilities in the first world need to meet exacting environmental standards which are designed to prevent pollution and reduce the numbers of dangerous chemicals produced each year, and consequently, chemical manufacturing is heavily focused in developing nations where regulations are less tight. The disparity in regulations has been criticized by many environmental advocates who are concerned that developing nations may be exposing themselves to environmental hazards in their eagerness to attract business.