Novel technologies continue to emerge in bioenergy, biofuels, and biochemicals. The buzz generated by initial announcements of these new technologies often stimulates interest from investors and developers alike. Some of the new technologies are well received in the marketplace, while others fall short and fail. Technical feasibility studies are the vehicle needed to dissect these sometimes hyperbolic claims contained in press releases and public relations presentations. A technical feasibility study can be conducted in several different depths of analysis. As an example, a preliminary technical feasibility analysis is often conducted very early in the development of new technology. This early ‘sanity check’ consists of evaluating whether the claims for the concept have practical viability or a “pure fantasy”. Early technical feasibility evaluates the process flowsheet, compares feed costs to product values, assesses the scale & scalability of operation, and benchmarks the new process or product to the competition. This study typically includes an overview of regulatory and supply issues and a preliminary economic study.
The more detailed technical feasibility study goes far beyond evaluating the flowsheet. It may encompass biochemical, chemical, engineering, intellectual property, environmental, economic, and operational considerations. The study includes an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the process, a review of potential market size and availability, and likely includes an evaluation of confidential reports, patents, and papers. Process modeling and sensitivity studies are often used as tools to determine where the risks remain in the process deployment.
At the top end of the spectrum, the full commercial technical feasibility study will be largely focused on the operational data, capital, and operating costs of the demonstration or pilot plant, and how these translate to the commercial environment, scale, and site. In addition, the study will evaluate environmental issues, infrastructure and utility requirements, emissions, waste treatment, and site considerations. Where an EPC has been engaged, an assessment of the detailed process design and construction plans may be included.
These technical feasibility studies are often conducted using a stage-gate approach, allowing clients to select specific items to be evaluated against established milestones at each stage. This permits course corrections to be made accordingly and is a good basis for “go/no go” decisions. Assessment of technical feasibility can be a complex undertaking. As the project progresses the number of unknowns (and the “unknown unknowns”) shrinks, and the project risk is accordingly reduced. Experienced scientists, engineers, and economists are all needed to properly and thoroughly conduct a technical feasibility study.
Among its 150+ experts, Lee Enterprises Consulting has a wide range of services in bioenergy, biomaterials and chemicals, biotechnologies, and feedstocks, including a number of specialists in technical feasibility and analysis. Take a look at our experts and the services we provide. You will note that most of our experts are also available for ancillary engagements and advice, for specialty engagements like serving as expert witnesses in litigation matters. A good overview of our group is found in this video. Call us at 1+ (501) 833-8511 or email us for more information.