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CL Operating labor cost ($/yr)

Feature Report CLab Laboratory cost ($/yr)
CM Maintenance labor and materials cost ($/yr)
CO Overhead cost ($/yr)

How to Estimate
CPC Pollution control cost ($/yr)
CRMi Cost of Raw Material i ($/unit)
CRoy Royalty cost ($/yr)

Operating Costs
CSL Supervisory labor cost ($/yr)
CUi Cost of Utility i ($/yr)
H Process annual operating hours
IB Index value, base date (dimensionless)
IC Index value, current date (dimensionless)
For assessing the attractiveness L Operating labor hours per shift
M Maintenance factor (fraction)
of a proposed new or retrofit project, PB Commodity price, base date ($/unit)

the capital cost estimate PC

Commodity price, current date ($/unit)
Operating labor rate ($/hr)
is just the first element in the picture. PPC
Pollution control unit cost ($/unit removed)
Product price ($/unit)
The profitability of the proposal hinges on PRMi Price of Raw Material i ($/unit)
PUi Price of Utility i ($/unit)
the operating costs it will incur Q Production rate (units/hr)
QPC Pollutants removed (units/year)
William M. Vatavuk, Vatavuk Engineering QProd Product production rate (units/yr)

QRMi Quantity of Raw Material i required (units/year)
uring evaluation of invest- ing hours (that is, when
ment proposals, preparation the process is inoperative), QUi Quantity of Utility i required (units/yr)
of budgets, or other activities, variable costs are zero as R Royalty rate (fraction of product value)
chemical engineers often have well. Operating and super- TCI Total capital investment ($)
a need to estimate operating visory labor, raw materials, x Factoring exponent for labor requirements
and maintenance (O&M) costs, also utilities, royalties, and pol-
referred to as direct operating costs, lution control fall into this category. above encompass the most commonly
for existing or proposed chemical-pro- Semivariable costs (maintenance, incurred direct operating costs in the
cess-industries (CPI) plants. Depend- overhead, and laboratory charges) also CPI. Because the range of processes
ing on their underlying purpose, such vary with the annual operating hours, that fall under the CPI umbrella is so
estimates can be made with varying but not proportionately. For example, wide and diverse, it would be imprac-
degrees of accuracy. The estimating even when a process is inoperative, tical to cover each and every process-
procedures presented below are ap- a minimal amount of maintenance industries cost category, including
propriate for developing “budget” or is needed. By the same token, the those relevant for only one industry,
“study” cost estimates, the accuracy amount of maintenance needed when in a single article. Instead, presented
of which typically ranges from plus- a process is running at, say, 8,000 h/ below for each category is general es-
or-minus 20 to plus-or-minus 30%; yr is less than double the amount re- timating guidance, including rules-of-
estimates of greater accuracy involve quired for 4,000-h/yr operation. thumb. Techniques for adjusting (es-
too much case-specific detail to allow The so-called fixed (indirect) operat- calating) direct operating costs from
generalized treatment. ing costs — taxes, insurance, adminis- one date to another also are given. (On
Direct operating costs include the trative charges, finance charges, and the other hand, because the prices of
following variable and semivariable depreciation — involve other than engi- labor, maintenance, utilities, and other
costs: neering considerations and lie outside direct-operating cost categories vary
• Operating and supervisory labor the scope of this article. These expendi- so much by process and geographic
• Maintenance (labor, materials, and tures are incurred even if the process area, no actual cost data are provided.)
contract maintenance) facility is completely shut down. Note Lastly, a detailed example is provided
• Overhead (plant and payroll) that of these, depreciation is unlike to illustrate how the individual direct
• Raw materials the other fixed costs (and unlike the operating costs are calculated.
• Utilities (electricity, fuels, water, direct operating costs), in that it is not
steam, compressed air, other) a real expenditure, with funds being Operating & supervisory labor
• Laboratory charges transferred from one entity to another. Most CPI facilities are automated to
• Royalties Rather, depreciation is an accounting some degree; many, in fact, require
• Pollution control (air, water, and (“book”) entry, made to offset taxable in- little or no operator attention. Nev-
solid waste) come. For more information on calculat- ertheless, at least some personnel are
The variable costs are those that vary ing depreciation and other fixed costs, needed during each shift to monitor
proportionately with the process an- refer to such texts as Reference [1]. the control-room instrumentation,
nual operating hours. At zero operat- The eight cost categories listed make periodic process-area walk-
Feature Report

throughs, and perform other routine

tasks. The following straightforward PUTTING THE GUIDELINES TO WORK A
equation can be used to estimate the A plant produces an organic chemical, C, Maintenance 12
process operating labor cost (CL) in according to the following reaction: factor: 1.75% of total Th
dollars per year: capital investment
A + 2B = C
CL = (L)(H/8)(PL) (1) Overhead factor: 100% of total labor
For simplicity, we assume that the reaction 2.
where: L = operating labor hours proceeds stoichiometrically, with no by- Raw material prices: A: $0.67/lb
products nor unreacted reactants. Being an B: $0.49/lb
per shift vi
H = process annual operat- particularly “green” facility, the plant emits Royalties: $0.057 per pound of product In
ing hours negligible amounts of air, water, or solid
pollutants. Utility requirements per pound of product,
PL = operating labor rate, in and utility prices:
dollars per hour The molecular weights of the reactants -- Electricity: 0.25 kWh; $0.057/kWh
Of the variables in Equation (1), (pounds per pound-mole) are: -- Steam: 1.25 lb; $4.50
H is self-explanatory: it ranges from per thousand pounds Th
A = 129
0 to 8,760, the latter number repre- B = 78 -- Cooling water: 2.75 gal; $0.22
senting 24 h/d, 365 d/yr. Division by per thousand gallons
The plant was built in 2002, and the total
8 converts H from hours per year to capital investment was $67,000,000 Because the annual hours of operation
shifts per year. The operating labor The plant’s capacity is 110,000,000 lb/yr are 8,000, rather than the 8,760 hours 3.
rate, PL, is quite fluid, varying by in- Given the following parameters, all expressed in a year, assume that the plant is oper- th
dustry, facility, geographical area, and in 2004 dollars, estimate the plant’s direct op- ating at [100(8,000/8,760)] or 91.3% th
other factors. In particular, geographic erating costs, likewise in 2004 dollars: of full capacity, and thus producing (a
differences in PL can be dramatic. For (0.913)(110,000,000) or
Annual hours of operation: 8,000 100,430,000 lb/yr
example, according to the Engineering Operating labor requirement: 36 h/shift (b
News-Record labor indexes for the past Operating labor rate: $25/h Solution:
several years, common hourly labor Supervisory 1. Determine the amounts of raw materials (c
rates in New York City, have been ap- labor factor: 15% of operating labor required. Because we assume stoichiometric
proximately three times the rates in Laboratory operation, the amounts of raw materials and
Dallas, Tex. [2]; similar geographic charges factor: 15% of operating labor product involved are:
differences have been observed for the
prices of CPI skilled labor. In the U.S., L2 = L1(Q2/Q1)x (2) maintenance employee; it similarly
labor rates can be obtained from such has accounted for the maintenance
sources as the Monthly Labor Review where: L1 = known labor require- materials costs, as well as the cost of
(MLR), published by the U.S. Dept. ment for Production maintenance contracts [4].*
of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Rate Q1 In many situations, however, the
(BLS). The MLR lists labor rates for x = a factoring exponent, engineer charged with making a di-
hundreds of industries and a variety ranging from 0.2 to 0.25 rect-operating-cost estimate does not
of geographic locations. [3] have a CMMS to draw upon. In these
The required operating-labor hours The supervisory labor requirement, cases, he or she must either predict
per shift, L, is less straightforward to CSL, also varies by process. However, a the amount of maintenance labor and
estimate. While L is a function of the good rule-of-thumb is 15% of the oper- materials the facility will require, or
extent of the automation of the pro- ating labor cost: estimate the total maintenance cost
cess, it also depends on the number as a percentage of the facility’s total
CSL = 0.15CL (3)
of units (distillation towers, for in- capital investment (TCI):
stance) in the process and the produc-
CM = (M)TCI (4)
tion rate. Depending on these factors, Maintenance
L can range from 1 to 40, 50, or more The cost of maintaining process equip- where M = 0.01 to 0.025, typically [6].
labor hours per shift. The best source ment varies considerably according to Generally, the lower end of this range
for estimating the operating labor re- the equipment type, age and condition, applies to well-designed plants with
quirement consists of plant records the geographical location, and the se- higher-than-average capital costs
for identical (or similar) processes, verity of service. As with the operating and lower-than-average numbers of
whether in-house data or information labor requirements, the best sources
obtained from other facilities. How- of maintenance-cost data are facility *For companies who do not have a CMMS in
ever, if no such information is avail- databases. In the ideal situation, a place or wish to augment an existing one, soft-
ware packages are available. These packages
able, the following equation can be well-designed and previously installed claim not only to track maintenance costs, but
used to roughly estimate L2, the labor Computerized Maintenance Manage- also to improve labor productivity, reduce equip-
ment downtimes, and perform other useful ser-
requirement for Production Rate Q2, if ment System (CMMS) has consis- vices [5]. Some of this software is structured so
as to enable the recording of these data on an
the labor requirement, L1, at a differ- tently, accurately and thoroughly ac- equipment-specific basis (for instance, pumps,
ent production rate, Q1 is known: counted for the hours worked by each scrubbers, conveyor systems).


A + 2B = C (d) Overhead, via Eq. (5):
129 + (2)(78) = 285 1.00[900,000 + 135,000 +
tal Thus: lb A/lb C (product) = 0.453 (1,316,500/2)] = 1,693,300
ent lb B/lb C (product) = 0.547 (e) Raw materials, via Eq. (6):
or Raw Material A:
2. Escalate the plant’s total capital invest- (0.453)(100,430,000)($0.67) =
ment from 2002 dollars to 2004 dollars
/lb $30,481,000
via the Chemical Engineering Plant Cost
uct Index (CEPCI): Raw Material B:
(0.547)(100,430,000)($0.49) =
CEPCI for 2002 = 395.6 $26,918,000
(based on 1995 = 100) Total = $57,399,000
Wh CEPCI for 2004 = 444.2 (f) Utilities, via Eq. (7):
ds Therefore, TCI in 2004 dollars = Electricity: (0.25)(100,430,000) X
22 $67,000,000(444.2/395.6) ($0.057) = $1,431,000
ns = $75,230,000 Steam: (1.25)(100,430,000) X
= ($4.50/1,000)
3. Using the equations and guidelines in = $564,900
the main text, estimate each component of Cooling water: (2.75)(100,430,000) X
the plant’s direct operating costs. ($0.22/1,000)
= $60,800
(a) Operating labor, via Eq. (1):
(g) Royalties, via Eq. (8):
CL = (36)(8,000/8)(25) = $900,000
(0.057)(100,430,000) = $5,724,500
(b) Supervisory labor, via Eq. (3):
(0.15)(900,000) = $135,000 (h) Laboratory charges, via Eq. (9):
s (c) Maintenance, via Eq. (4): (0.15)(900,0000) = $135,000
ic (0.0175)(75,230,000) = $1,316,500 Thus, the estimated total annual operat-
nd ing cost is $69,360,000, or $0.691 per
pound of product ❏

equipment items to maintain (such as less steel. The total equipment cost,
pumps, fans, evaporators). The higher and thus the TCI, for the latter process
end of the range is generally more rel- might be several times that of its carbon
evant for less expensive, less well-de- steel counterpart. But because it is more
signed plants having higher-than-av- corrosion-resistant, the more expensive
erage quantities of prime movers and process is actually likely to require less
other equipment requiring significant maintenance over its useful life.
amounts of maintenance. But these The second disadvantage of using
guidelines for assigning a value to the percentage-of-TCI method is that
M are very rough, and exceptions to in it, the maintenance factor is mul-
them abound. tiplied by the TCI, which is expressed
This latter option is in many cases in the constant dollars corresponding
the only practical recourse when the to the year(s) during which the facil-
estimate is for a proposed facility em- ity was, or might be, built. Therefore,
ploying a new process, because no his- even five, ten, or more years after the
torical data exist. facility comes on line, the calculated
On the plus side, estimating mainte- maintenance cost is still equal to the
nance costs as a percentage of the TCI maintenance cost in the first year. To
requires just a single calculation. But compensate for this defect, the engi-
there are two drawbacks: First, this ap- neer making the estimate should esca-
proach tends to overstate the costs for late the TCI to the current dollars cor-
maintaining expensive, well-designed responding to the year of the estimate.
facilities, while understating the main- This escalation is typically done via an
tenance costs for plants having lower index, such as the Chemical Engineer-
capital costs. Consider, for instance, ing Plant Cost Index (CEPCI; see p. 64
two processes of identical capacity and in this issue), which has been calcu-
configuration, one consisting primarily lated by, and tabulated in, this maga-
of carbon steel equipment, the other of zine for over 40 years [7].
units fabricated from Type 304 stain- Despite its disadvantages, estimat-
Circle 18 on p. 53 or go to
Feature Report

ing maintenance cost as a percentage quired amounts of these raw materials In addition to plant records, sources
of the TCI as in Equation (4) is far and will have to be adjusted accordingly. of utility prices include local power,
away the most commonly used method Once the raw-material quantities gas, and water companies and such
for computing this expenditure. A com- have been determined (typically, on a publications as DOE’s Monthly En-
monly used rule-of-thumb with this mass-per-mass-of-product basis), ob- ergy Review mentioned above. Steam
equation is to split the calculated cost tain the current prices of these mate- and compressed-air prices, however,
evenly between maintenance labor rials. Again, plant records are the best are rarely published. Rather, plants
and maintenance materials. sources of this information, as they generally calculate their values in-
reflect such plant-specific charges as ternally. For example, steam costs are
Overhead freight and storage. But if these re- a function of the cost of the fuel used
Overhead is a charge assessed against cords are unavailable, the engineer to produce it, as well as the fixed and
the total labor cost (the sum of oper- should refer to such published sources other variable costs associated with
ating, supervisory, and maintenance as Chemical Week or Chemical Mar- the steam generator itself.
labor). Some estimators split overhead keting Reporter (chemical prices) or
into two categories: payroll and plant. the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) Energy Royalties
Payroll overhead covers all costs that Information Administration’s Monthly Many products are produced under
the employer company pays for the Energy Review (fuel prices). license from other firms. For being al-
privilege of retaining its staff. These The total raw materials cost (∑CRMi) lowed to make and sell each such pat-
costs include: Social Security (employ- is simply the sum of the costs of the in- ented product, a company (licensee)
er’s contribution); Worker’s Compensa- dividual raw materials: must pay a royalty to the firm hold-
tion; life, medical, health, and dental ing the patent. Under typical royalty
∑CRMi = ∑QRMiPRMi (6)
insurance; sick leave and vacations; agreements, each royalty (Croy) is as-
and other similar expenses. Plant over- where: sessed as a fraction (R) of the revenue
head is a charge assessed to cover such QRMi = quantity of Raw Mate- the licensee receives from making and
items as plant lighting and protection, rial i required (units/ selling the product:
employee amenities (cafeterias, locker year)
Croy = R(QprodPprod) (8)
rooms, other), and common areas, such PRMi = price of Raw Material i
as parking lots. The total overhead ($/unit) where:
charge, CO, varies according to the Qprod = annual production of
firm’s accounting system. It can range Utilities product (units/year)
from as low as 50% to more than 150% Every process consumes electricity Pprod = price of product ($/unit)
of the total labor cost. A mid-range es- and one or more other kinds of utili-
The value of R will vary, of course,
timate is 100%. The relevant equation ties. Electricity is required by motors,
according to the licensing agreement
is, thus, simply: heaters, instrumentation and other
made with the patent holder.
equipment, as well as for lighting; it is
CO = 1.00(CL + CSL+ CM/2) (5)
also essential to some reactions, such
where: as producing chlorine and caustic soda Laboratory charges
CM/2 = maintenance labor by electrolysis of brine. Steam, com- Periodically, raw materials and prod-
(keeping in mind the monly circulated through the plant ucts have to be sampled and tested to
rule-of-thumb men- via multiple headers at various pres- ensure that they meet specifications.
tioned at the close of the sures, plays a wide role in most process The cost of the labor required to do
discussion on mainte- plants: for heating, for such process this is charged against the process.
nance, above) applications as stripping, and even in Laboratory labor is usually figured as
some instances (such as steam-meth- a percentage of total operating labor.
Raw materials ane reforming) as a reactant. Process While this assessment (CLab) varies
For estimating the raw materials cost, water is used in many unit operations; by plant, a rule-of-thumb is 15% of the
the engineer must in the first place it is a reactant in some reactions; and total operating labor, or:
have a thorough understanding of the it serves widely as cooling water in
CLab = 0.15CL (9)
process, especially with respect to its condensers, heat exchangers and cool-
inputs and outputs. Before the oper- ers. Compressed air has a variety of
ating-cost estimate is made, design purposes in process plants. Pollution control costs
engineers should have developed com- In general, the cost of each util- During the past three or four decades,
plete material and energy balances ity (CUi) is the product of its annual the costs of controlling air, water, and
around the process. These should in- consumption (QUi, units/year) and its solid waste pollutants have increased
dicate, among other things, the extent price (PUi, $/unit): dramatically, due to: the increasing
to which the production reactions are stringency of federal, state, and local
CUi = QUi PUi (7)
carried through to completion. If the control regulations in the U.S. and
reactants have to be present in greater The total utilities cost is the sum of comparable regulations in other na-
than stoichiometric quantities, the re- the individual utility expenditures. tions; pressure from environmental
O&M Cost Index Number Index Name
Operating CEU3232500006 Manufacturing/Chemicals (avg. hourly earnings)
CEU3232600006 Manufacturing/Plastics and rubber products “
CEU3232400006 Manufacturing/Petroleum and coal products “ figures for their sectors. The PPIs and
the labor price indexes are compiled
Electricity wpu0543 Fuels & related products/industrial electric power
by the U.S. Dept of Labor’s BLS. Up-
Natural gas wpu05310105 Fuels & related products/natural gas dated monthly, each index is available
from the BLS website [9]. To obtain
organizations; and other influences. “double duty” units, it is difficult to the index data, simply enter the index
Engineers preparing operating-cost distinguish the utilities, maintenance, number on-line in the box labeled
estimates should take care not to over- and other costs consumed for product “Enter series id(s) below,” indicate the
look this source of expense. For some recovery from those applicable to con- year(s) for which index data are de-
chemical-process plants, admittedly, trolling emissions. sired, and click on “Retrieve data”.
pollution-control costs consist solely of Nevertheless, an estimate of the To estimate the current price of a
those for purchasing, installing, oper- pollution-related operating costs is commodity (PC), multiply the com-
ating and maintaining a few pieces of usually wanted by plant and company modity price for the base date (PB) by
equipment, such as a thermal oxidizer management, even when the prepara- the index value for the current date
system. For other plants, however, con- tion of that estimate involves difficult (IC), divided by the index value for the
trol systems are extremely large and or somewhat arbitrary allocations. base date (IB):
complex — indeed, many are virtu- Furthermore, in many instances in
PC = PB (IC/IB) (11)
ally process plants in their own right. which the engineering project involves
Prime examples are the lime- and a proposed modification to an exist- To repeat, however — escalation of
limestone-based fluegas-desulfuriza- ing plant in the U.S., estimates of the O&M prices should only be done as a
tion systems used to control sulfur di- pollution-related operating costs are, last resort. ■
oxide emissions from large CPI-plant in fact, required in the course of ob- Edited by Nicholas P. Chopey
boilers, and the elaborate wastewater taining the necessary environmental
treatment facilities required for some permits, such as PSD (Prevention of References
manufacturing processes and plant Significant Deterioration) air permits. 1. Peters, Max S., others, “Plant Design and
locations. Similar allocations must be made Economics for Chemical Engineers,” 5th Ed.,
McGraw-Hill, New York, 2003.
Information on pollution control when water, solid waste, and other pol- 2. Engineering News-Record, various issues,
costs is available in several published lution control permits are developed. McGraw-Hill, New York.
sources, among them References [3] 3. “EPA Air Pollution Control Cost Manual,” 6th
Ed., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
and [8]. For purposes of making bud- Escalating the costs Research Triangle Park, N.C., 2002.
get/study estimates, the direct operat- A young man once asked Somerset 4. Singer, Tom, “Industrial Maintenance &
ing costs for pollution control (CPC) Maugham his advice on how to be- Plant Operation: Accounting for Costs,”
October 2002,
are commonly assessed on a dollars- come a writer. After staring at him pubs/ IndustrialMaintenancePlantOpera-
per-unit-of-pollutant-removed basis: for a moment, Maugham solemnly re-
5. Proteus Maintenance Management Software,
plied, “Don’t!” The same advice applies Eagle Technology, Inc., 2005. http://www.ea-
CPC = PPCQPC (10) to the escalating of direct operating
costs. 6. Jones, Edwin K., “Comparing Maintenance
Costs.” cur-
where: QPC = quantity of pol- At any event, unlike current capital rent/09-00mm.html.
lutant removed (gaseous, liquid, solid), costs, which can be difficult to obtain, 7. Vatavuk, William M., Updating the CE Plant Cost
Index, Chem. Eng., pp. 62-70, January 2002.
units/year the current prices for labor, utilities,
8. Vatavuk, William M., “Estimating Costs
To avoid double-counting, this ap- and other O&M costs are readily of Air Pollution Control.” CRC Press, Boca
proach assumes that the direct operat- available from several sources: pub- Raton, Fla., 1990.
9. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Dept. of
ing costs dedicated to pollution control lications, utility companies, and com- Labor, cgi-bin/srgate.
(labor, utilities, etc.) are not included pany records. Thus, escalation of O&M
in the various costs calculated via prices should not be necessary. Never-
Equations (1) through (9). Admittedly, theless, on those rare occasions when Author
it may be difficult in some situations these data simply cannot be found, William M. Vatavuk is
president of Vatavuk Engi-
for the engineer to separate process published indexes can be used in an neering (3512 Angus Road,
costs from pollution-control-related attempt to update the prices of some Durham, NC 27705-5404;
phone: 919-699-3336; fax:
costs. For example, at a small facility, direct-operating-cost components. 413-638-1336; e-mail: wil-
an operator might be responsible for For usage in the U.S., Table 1 lists, a
consulting firm specializing
monitoring both the production and two selected Producer Price Indexes in air pollution control and
the pollution-control units. Here, allo- (PPIs), for natural gas and electricity, cost analysis. He retired from
cating a portion of the operator’s time and three labor price indexes, for the U.S. EPA’s Air Programs Office
after a 30-year career. Vatavuk is the author of
to pollution control might be arbitrary. “chemicals,” “plastics and rubber prod- two books, two book chapters, and scores of ar-
In other cases, a pollution control unit ucts,” and “petroleum and coal prod- ticles on cost analysis. He created and regularly
updates the “Vatavuk Air Pollution Control Cost
(such as a gas absorber) might be used ucts” sectors. The labor price indexes Indexes,” which appear monthly in CE (see p. 64).
to recover product, as well as to con- can be used in two ways: as escalation Vatavuk has a B.E. in chemical engineering from
Youngstown State University and is a registered
trol regulated air emissions. For such indexes, and as actual hourly-earnings professional engineer in North Carolina.