Design review of fertilizer plants: guidance document and recommendations

Design review of fertilizer plants: guidance document and recommendations

For fertilizer manufacturers, the design review acts as a forum to get questions answered, assumptions clarified, and advice sought. It is a useful mechanism whereby the project design can be optimised through a systematic review and feedback on design process outputs. The design review process shall not be confused with process safety studies, like HAZID, HAZOP and LOPA. Typically, a number of formal and informal reviews are conducted during the project. These reviews may last a few hours or a few days depending on the scope and the phase of the project. and  are developing a guidance document detailing how the design review shall be conducted to help fertilizer manufacturers to increase the outcome of their design review meetings. This guidance is available for download from our guidelines and procedures list and can be read in internal library. Specific design review procedures can be developed upon request for specific projects and clients.

There are numerous junctures during a design project when a design review can be conducted, in particular, when deliverables are passed to the next revision. The number and timing of these design reviews depend on various considerations, including the magnitude of the project and development schedule. The timing does need to be such that all relevant information can be provided to the reviewers.

Too early of a review results in decisions being based on insufficient information; while a review held too late may have little impact since commitments to the design have already been made and cannot be changed without significant alteration to schedule or budget.

Project activities in which design reviews are useful:

  • Conceptual design
  • FEED phase
  • Detail design
  • Action items close-out process
  • Turnaround plant modification, and
  • Small internal revamp projects

 Types of Reviews

Reviews are classified as formal or informal depending on who participates in a review.

  • Informal review involves those individuals directly involved in the design project (client, technology licensor, EPCM, subcontractors, etc.),
  • Formal review includes applicable subject matter experts who are not directly involved in the design but can review and comment on the design.

Reviews can also be classified as:

  • Technical or
  • Project.

Technical reviews involve subject matter experts and deal solely with technical issues. This type of review is more applicable to engineering meetings.

Project reviews will include a summary of the technical review, in addition to a survey of the status of budget, schedule and resources. Examples of project review meetings are detailed in Turnaround management methodology for fertilizer plants guidance.

Preparing for the Design Review

The preparation for a design review should begin approximately a month prior to the review meeting. First of all, a meeting date shall be set and a review chairperson appointed.

The following provides an example design review schedule:

  • Schedule design review and meeting facilities,
  • Assign areas of responsibility to design team members,
  • Publish agenda and terms of reference,
  • Invite subject matter experts (if applicable),
  • Distribute design review packages to attendees,
  • Run design review meeting.

Key Documentation Required

Apart from Basis for Design, since early stages, there is a number of key documents recommended to be available on the Client side that will define the entire philosophy of the project.

  • Process philosophy and material selection philosophy shall be available since concept phase.
  • For revamp cases the operating flexibility shall be considered by proper selection of a process scheme that can allow to safely operate the entire plant.
  • develop a revamp guide to support urea plant operators.
  • Define the equipment criticality rating sparing philosophy for all machines from early FEED phase.
  • Define the required instrumentation for monitoring and control the plant operation within the defined operative parameters along the plant.
  • Key engineering disciplines involved in the project shall have their own Safety in Design Guidelines available.
  • and develop the following guidelines specifically for our clients in the fertilizer industry:
    • Safety and Design Process Guideline
    • Safety and Design Instrumentation Guideline
    • Safety and Design Mechanical Guideline
    • Safety and Design Electrical Guideline
    • Safety and Design Structural Guideline
    • Safety and Design Plant Layout Guideline
    • Safety in Design Coating, Insulation and Preservation
    • Discipline Safety and Design Piping Guideline

 Design review in fertilizer plants – things to consider

The design review shall consider the most common hazards (see below) in large fertilizer production units identified as risks for which effective preventive measures shall to be installed and maintained in a highly reliability state:

Ammonia Production

  • Fire /explosion hazard due to:
    • leaks from the hydrocarbon feed system;
    • leaks of synthesis gas in the CO/removal/synthesis gas compression areas (75% hydrogen);
    • the formation of a flammable gas mixture inside equipment, for example, in the reformer or process airline.
  • Toxic hazards from:
    • the release of liquid ammonia from the synthesis loop;
    • accidental release during storage and handling.

Urea Production

  • Equipment / piping failure due to corrosion;
  • Explosion hazard due to the formation of a flammable atmosphere;
  • Toxic hazard due to ammonia release.

Nitric Acid / Ammonium Nitrate Production

  • Equipment piping failure due to corrosion;
  • Explosion of the air ammonia mixture;
  • Explosion of nitrite/nitrate salts.


It is recommended that during the design review session the company internal risk register is used, the issues already identified are checked for each section of the plant, and those technical concerns are addressed during the review session at the appropriate topic.  

Additional source of information for process and project risks is FIORDA database. FIORDA Members can use the information from FIORDA during their technical review meetings to identify potential issues and solutions already applied in the industry. 

 Design Review Meeting Minutes

The design review meeting minutes will form the basis of the Design Review Report.

These minutes are used to record decisions that have been made, issues that require resolution, conclusions made and actions items that have been identified during the course of the design review.

One member of the design team is assigned the responsibility to maintain the minutes.

It is useful to distribute the minutes within a day or two of the review to all participants to review. This provides an opportunity to highlight any errors or omissions prior to the completion of the Design Review Report.

 Post-Design Review and Action Items close-out

One person should be designated with the responsibility to co-ordinate the follow-up activities and action items of the design review.

All action items requiring closure and follow-up should have an associated date for completion and a responsible person. Each and every issue that was identified for resolution and any other action items are monitored to completion.

Action close-out procedure shall be developing to specify how project engineering and technical actions are recorded, monitored, and closed out. Clear levels of responsibility are assigned for action items closure, review and approval. develop specific Action Tracking Register software and dedicated procedure that allow project team members to collaborate for closing action items.

All item must be addressed objectively in a timely manner and resolutions documented for inclusion in the Design Review Report.

 Design Review Report

The extent and content of the report will depend on the audience as well as what was agreed upon at the design review. Typically, this report shall be issued within a month of the design review meeting. In addition to the meeting minutes, the report shall contain the status of each issue or action item as well as the details on the resolution of these items if available.

If further investigation, testing or other analyses have been completed, evidence of these should be furnished.

Once the action items are closed and approved, the Design Review Report shall be updated with the final agreed resolution.

It is not uncommon for the outcome of a design review to lead to changes not only in direction but also schedule and budget. The impact of these changes shall be determined and an updated project plan included in the report.



  1. Burgess, John A., Design Assurance for Engineers and Managers, Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-8247-7258-X.
  2. Department of Defense, United States of America, Military Standard: Technical Reviews and Audits for Systems, Equipments, and Computer Software, Mil-Std-1521B, 4 June 1986.
  3. Gause, Donald C. and Weinberg, Gerald M., Exploring Requirements: Quality Before Design, Doreset House Publishing, New York, NY, 1989. ISBN 0-932633-13-7.
  4. Pugh, Stuart, Creating Innovative Products Using Total Design, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., Reading, Massachusetts, 1996. ISBN 0-201-63485-6.
  5. Thompson, G., Design Review: The Critical Analysis of the Design of Production Facilities. The Lavenham Press Ltd., Lavenham, Suffolk, 1985.
  6. Phil Eames ABB Global Consulting, John Brightling Johnson Matthey Catalysts Process Safety in the Fertilizer Industry, a New Focus AICHE Ammonia Safety Symposium white paper
  7. Glenn W. Parizot, P.E. KBR The Process Safety Engineer’s Role in Ammonia Plant Design and HAZOP Facilitation
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