Engineering & Business Magazine Reviews

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I get a lot of work-related magazines across my desk, and definitely have my preferences in what I find useful as a process engineer & consultant. I thought I would share my narrow, heavily biased opinions, because maybe it will help some of you make the right choices for yourself.

My magazine goals

I usually read work magazines hoping to get one of three things, in this order:

  1. A new technique, ability, or resource I can feasibly call upon to do my job better or increase the range of things I can do.
  2. A relevant or inspiring story that has some value mentally preparing me for issues ahead
  3. Entertainment

Industry news, trends in chemical prices, information about stock prices and legal issues, and overview case studies tend to be less useful to me. Remember that at the moment I'm a chemical engineering consultant; your needs as a reader will vary a bit from mine.

I've also learned that trying to force yourself to read a random article you totally don't understand, in the hopes of "remembering it later," is usually a fool's errand. Better to track down such information later if and when you ever need it. Instead, you want to find articles that are on the edge of what you do know: you're pushing yourself to learn but you can understand what's going on.

With that said, let's crack open some magazines and take a look!


Chemical Engineering Magazine

Requires subscription (but see the end of this post...)

This magazine is quite tailored to my needs, and if I had to choose just one magazine for work I guess Chemical Engineering would win. I find an average of a bit less than one article worth saving per issue – sometimes nothing, but sometimes two or even three go in “the vault.” That's a very good rate of stories that I'm glad to have come across.

They also have reasonable and well-balanced editorials from multiple perspectives, which seems to be rare in an industry magazine. Most magazines cheerlead their audience like an official school newspaper but Chemical Engineering has a good range of perspectives.


Hydrocarbon Processing

Requires subscription (but see the end of this post...)

This is one of my favourites as well. They cover the lifecycle of hydrocarbons and discuss more sides than just chemical engineering. This is actually a bit of a problem for me, because the hit ratio of useful articles is a bit less than CE magazine. Some topics are totally removed from my responsibility. But I have a nice folder of great finds from HP as well, especially on relief valve analysis.

They also have a big focus on reliability and good maintenance practices. If you’re into that kind of thing Hydrocarbon Processing is the best source in this list.

Chemical Processing

Free online

Another favorite magazine, and you can get their articles for free online. Gotta say I love Dirk Willard’s columns, check out this article on careers or carefully applying rules of thumb. Their website is also one of the best, it’s very easy to search, share, and save the articles and you don’t need to log-in first to do it.

I really like this magazine.


Chemical Engineering Progress

Requires subscription

From AIChE, it’s another really strong technical magazine for me. I don’t have a lot to say about it, but I do find an article for worth keeping about every 2 or 3 issues.


Hydrocarbon Engineering

Requires subscription

One of my very experienced coworkers loves this magazine, he reads many of the same magazines in this list and he thinks Hydrocarbon Engineering is the greatest one of them all

I have to disagree. I find most of the articles are either a) market analysis or b) a specific case study of some engineering project. You would think the case studies should be useful to me: I could get some techniques or at least a story about some of the pitfalls in that kind of project. I don’t know it it’s just something about me, but I always find it really hard to get into these article or to extract any useful lessons or methodology to apply to my own problems. Also a little pet peeve: they have fancy-graphics cover pages at the start of each article, and half the time I mistake them  for advertising and end up overshooting the articles.

So it’s worth a try, but your mileage may vary.

 (Sidenote: aren't ads in industry magazines interesting? Especially when it gets really abstract, like a picture of a baby to go along with some text about "safe and leakproof gaskets," or a poor-resolution picture of a lion representing the tenacity of a little firm you've never heard of)


Pipeline & Gas Journal

Free online

A lot of news about pipeline projects, info on corrosion, inspection, of lines, etc. Not useful to me, so I’m not well placed to judge.


Oil & Gas Journal

Requires subscription

I think this is most of use to an oil industry analyst or someone on the heavy business end of the company. There are some technical articles, mainly upstream, but the bulk is reporting. This is great for someone straddling between the two words

The editorials are relentlessly pro-industry, America-centric, and therefore pro-Republican. Expect an article or two every issue about how politicians don’t understand the issues. But O&GJ is right sometimes! The oil industry really does get unfairly beat up some of the time. And I keep reading them…

If it was my own wallet, I reluctantly wouldn't subscribe because I just work too often downstream and too much on the technical side of things to get my money’s worth. But I’m glad I can borrow a copy through my work for a quick flip.


Oil and Gas Financial Journal

Requires subscription

An endless parade of old white men in suits talk arcana about leasing speculative fields and initial public offerings. Not for me.


Power Magazine

Free online subscription

Free, it's mostly industry news, and therefore rarely useful to me. But worth a quick flip through since it is free and I sometimes find something usefull.


Nuclear Power International Magazine

Free online subscription

By the same group as Power Magazine, again largely industry news that’s above my level of concern. Occasional interesting story.


Processing Magazine: Solutions for the Process Industries

Free online subscription

A short publication with huge pages, all articles on specific equipment: instruments, monitoring, piping fittings, etc. Because I don’t do equipment purchases personally, this isn't very helpful to me.


The Economist

Requires subscription

An eminent and respected news periodical from the UK, The Economist has a long history and a long reach. About half the magazine is dedicated to news, with focus on America and the UK but also enough international detail to easily blow away the combined impact of all the other newspapers and television I watch. In the other half there will be economics articles (most of which are easily intelligible, but a 3-4 pages are highly technical), detailed stories about businesses, book and art reviews, etc.

Although I’m a few $20,000 flights away from their target audience, and it’s usually not necessary for my work, being on top of economics issues and knowing a bit about countries around the world is really, really handy for small talk. Especially when I can talk to coworkers and clients from half way around the world about the situation back home, talk finance with the VP, etc.

An enjoyable and broadening read.


Harvard Business Review

Requires subscription

Again I’m not feeling the ads for $600 watches, but I always get a good read out of the magazine. This surprised me, because so much of what's written about business is vague pap. It's refreshing to get a magazine with some solid advice in it.

With HBR, some of it is specific in-the-trenches advice for managers, some dubious “visionary” fluff pieces for the CEOs to parrot, and sometimes just stories. I think the stories are worth something, both the inspirational stories and the painful screw-ups. They can soak into you and give you an idea what’s out there in the business world to face. It helps tune your mind to looking for opportunities, in good times, tragedies, new markets, and so forth.

My favorite part of the magazine is the case studies, where they tell a detailed little story and put the management protagonist into a tough situation. Then they halt the story at a crisis point, and ask a few experts to weigh in on what they would do in that situation. The situations are challenging enough that the eminent experts sometimes completely disagree on what actions to take, which keeps things interesting and fresh.

I think if you’ve got an eye of going into management or higher, or at least understanding their problems, HBR is worth a read.


The last notes

You can get some advice on getting free access to CE magazine here. You may be able to try out the magazines you're feeling uncertain about. You might also try your local library, your office work library, or borrowing from friends. Try to browse a few issues and see if you'll be getting your money's worth before you start a paid subscription.

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One Response to Engineering & Business Magazine Reviews

  1. Chinmoy Basak says:

    Thank you for this.

    I specially like fact in you fingertips in But it would have been great to have a collection of all “fact in you fingertips”

    I cannot subscribe Hydrocarbon processing can you help.

    If I need a very old version or copy of ChE or Hydrocarbon processing then how can i find it?


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