Maximising Returns from Investment in New Technologies: TEA Anyone?

Process intensification, biotechnology, electrification, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing and advanced materials are changing the face of manufacturing. Deciding which technologies to adopt at what point in the development cycle is critical to business survival and growth. Rapid Techno-Economic Analysis (TEA) modelling informs timely decision making and business strategy. Increasingly companies need in-house capabilities to adapt effectively to the opportunities and risks of new manufacturing technologies, yet these skills are not always readily available.

Developing skills in TEA enables process engineers, plant designers, commercial managers and investors to understand the economic feasibility of competing technologies under different scenarios. Applied soundly, TEA generates robust evidence that the further development of a technology or process makes good business sense, by highlighting the key costs, risks and uncertainties, as well as the market opportunities.

At its core, TEA employs process simulation to determine mass and energy balances of a production process, enabling estimation of capital and operating costs based on process dynamics. This fundamental understanding is expanded upon with detailed feedstock and product price forecasting to demonstrate the financial viability of developing a new production facility through a thorough investment analysis. Probabilistic assessment of financial returns is undertaken to determine and determine the key drivers of cost and risk.

TEA is a powerful tool for developers. Its power can be increased by incorporating additional approaches to better understand the environmental and social implications of emerging technologies. Increasingly, investment decisions also need to consider environmental factors: these can be highlighted using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tools, which can be readily implemented alongside TEA. Coming soon will be the integration of other risk factors, including those posed by social capital concerns like modern day slavery, to rapidly identify and help to manage such risks within complex supply chains.

As part of its £13m investment in green chemicals, the University of Nottingham has developed a three-day course on TEA and LCA. This unique training opportunity will help to create the skilled workforce required to identify, evaluate, and exploit emerging process technologies. For more information on the green chemicals programme, and TEA/LCA training in particular, please see here or contact Dr Simon Gerrard.


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