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Capital cost estimates for chemical process plants are often based on an estimate of the purchase cost of the major equipment items required for the process, the other costs being estimated as factors of the equipment cost. The accuracy of this type of estimate will depend on what stage the design has reached at the time the estimate is made, and on the reliability of the data available on equipment costs. In the later stages of the project design, when detailed equipment specifications are available and firm quotations
have been obtained, an accurate estimation of the capital cost of the project can be made.

1. Lang factors

The factorial method of cost estimation is often attributed to Lang (1948). The fixed capital cost of the project is given as a function of the total purchase equipment cost by the equation:

Cf = fL x Ce


Cf = fixed capital cost,
Ce = the total delivered cost of all the major equipment items: storage tanks, reaction vessels, columns, heat exchangers, etc.,
fL = the “Lang factor”, which depends on the type of process.
fL = 3.1 for predominantly solids processing plant
fL = 4.7 for predominantly fluids processing plant
fL = 3.6 for a mixed fluids-solids processing plant
The values given above should be used as a guide; the factor is best derived from an organisation’s own cost files.
Equation can be used to make a quick estimate of capital cost in the early stages of project design, when the preliminary flow-sheets have been drawn up and the main items of equipment roughly sized.

2. Detailed factorial estimates

To make a more accurate estimate, the cost factors that are compounded into the “Lang factor” are considered individually. The direct-cost items that are incurred in the construction of a plant, in addition to the cost of equipment are:

1. Equipment erection, including foundations and minor structural work.
2. Piping, including insulation and painting.
3. Electrical, power and lighting.
4. Instruments, local and control room.
5. Process buildings and structures.
6. Ancillary buildings, offices, laboratory buildings, workshops.
7. Storages, raw materials and finished product.
8. Utilities (Services), provision of plant for steam, water, air, firefighting services (if not costed separately).
9. Site, and site preparation.

The contribution of each of these items to the total capital cost is calculated by multiplying the total purchased equipment by an appropriate factor. As with the basic “Lang factor”, these factors are best derived from historical cost data for similar processes. Typical values for the factors are given in several references, Happle and Jordan (1975) and Garrett (1989). Guthrie (1974), splits the costs into the material and labour portions and gives
separate factors for each. In a booklet published by the Institution of Chemical Engineers, IChemE (1988), the factors are shown as a function of plant size and complexity.

The accuracy and reliability of an estimate can be improved by dividing the process into sub-units and using factors that depend on the function of the sub-units; see Guthrie (1969). In Guthrie’s detailed method of cost estimation the installation, piping and instrumentation costs for each piece of equipment are costed separately. Detailed costing is only justified if the cost data available are reliable and the design has been taken to the
point where all the cost items can be identified and included.

Typical factors for the components of the capital cost are given in Table. These can be used to make an approximate estimate of capital cost using equipment cost data published in the literature. In addition to the direct cost of the purchase and installation of equipment, the capital cost of a project will include the indirect costs listed below. These can be estimated as a function of the direct costs.

Indirect costs

1. Design and engineering costs, which cover the cost of design and the cost of “engineering” the plant: purchasing, procurement and construction supervision. Typically 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the direct capital costs.
2. Contractor’s fees, if a contractor is employed his fees (profit) would be added to the total capital cost and would range from 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the direct costs.
3. Contingency allowance, this is an allowance built into the capital cost estimate to cover for unforeseen circumstances (labour disputes, design errors, adverse weather). Typically 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the direct costs.
The indirect cost factors are included in Table . The capital cost required for the provision of utilities and other plant services will depend on whether a new (green field) site is being developed, or if the plant is to be
built on an existing site and will make use of some of the existing facilities.

Lang Factor

The term“battery limits” is used to define a contractor’s responsibility. The main processing plant, within the battery limits, would normally be built by one contractor. The utilities and other ancillary equipment would often be the responsibility of other contractors and would be said to be outside the battery limits. They are often also referred to as “off-sites”.