While not a separate research thrust area, evaluating whether or not producing a specific biorenewable chemical is truly economically feasible and sustainable requires a thorough techno economic analysis (TEA) and life cycle assessment (LCA). Thus appropriate use of TEA and LCA are important systems level criterion for new chemical technologies to be developed through CBiRC and are an additional overarching research area. Initial efforts will include an early-stage TEA of CBiRC technologies, which can later be followed by a more thorough process flow modeling, techno economic modeling and life cycle assessment. early-stage techno-economic models of bioprocessing systems
By using cost correlations and standard scale-factors, a spreadsheet-based cost estimation tool was developed for early-stage techno-economic models of bioprocessing systems. Named ESTEA (Early Stage Techno Economic Analysis), this tool allows users to specify up to seven primary unit operations–fermentation, separation, three catalytic stages, and purification–along with key parameters for each. ESTEA then computes an estimated minimum selling price for the overall process.
Techno Economic Analysis (TEA) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) are tools that can be used to evaluate whether or not an existing or proposed chemical process is truly sustainable by assessing the economics of scale and broader impacts. As test beds emerge within CBiRC, a key question will be when the “hand off” from biocatalytic conversion to chemical catalytic conversion should occur. TEA and LCA will be used to help guide this decision by evaluating possible alternative process options. This evaluation will not only provide a basis for comparing these options, but will also identify the key technological bottlenecks and their resulting leverage on the sustainability of the biorenewable chemical product. Therefore, the results will be used by the Technical Project Team to direct the technical efforts of CBiRC and for deciding resource allocation. On at least an annual basis, the TEA and LCA for the active CBiRC test beds will be updated for the Technical Project Team.