467207 Techno‐Economic Analysis Activities for New Chemical Processes By Technology Readiness Level

Tuesday, November 15, 2016: 1:14 PM
Union Square 21 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
David Humbird, DWH Process Consulting, Centennial, CO

Entrepreneurs and startups in the chemical process industries may, at various points in their development, find themselves asking the question, “What should we be modeling?” While careful planning of fundamental R&D activities is important for startups in any industry, many companies in the process industries face the additional challenge of ultimately operating at huge production volumes. Concurrent activities in conceptual process design and production cost estimation (also known as techno-economic analysis) are therefore also important to ensure early positioning for scale-up.

As a tool for communicating a technology’s potential to VCs and other funding agencies, however, the depth of the techno-economic analysis must be consistent with the maturity of its core technology. In other words, concepts that have been well developed in the lab with no consideration given to scale-up challenges may be viewed as insufficiently de-risked. Similarly, a highly detailed analysis presented for a brand-new, unproven concept may be dismissed as too fanciful by inspection.

This talk outlines the techno-economic analysis activities that should be performed concurrent to R&D, using the framework of the Technology Readiness Level (TRL), a system adopted by several U.S. government agencies that provide research funding. The TRL framework ranks a technology’s progress toward commercialization on a numerical scale. For example, TRLs 1-3 may represent bench-scale activities, TRLs 4-6 pilot scale, and TRLs 7-9 demonstration and commercial scales. Expected R&D activities are defined at each rank, making it simple for startups to self-identify which TRL applies to them. This talk presents an additional set of definitions regarding the expected process engineering activities at each TRL: when to begin conceptual process design (and at what level of detail), grow process engineering capabilities (in-house or consulting), invest in expensive process simulation resources, and ultimately approach an EPC firm to begin plant construction.

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