ERC Publishes Early-Stage Technoeconomic Evaluation (ESTEA) Tool
Researchers at the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at Iowa State University, have published an early-stage technoeconomic evaluation tool. The tool is subject to refinement and is now called ESTEA to better describe its function (a rename from the former term, BioPET).
The tool delivers insights into the overall process being envisioned and creates a valuation on target molecules being delivered at scaled production. Several user-friendly improvements have been made, and the tool has been requested by several industry members. In addition, ESTEA has been used by the testbeds as well as by CBiRC’s startup entities. Use of the tool by CBiRC internally plus its use externally by some members and spinoffs helps these entities reach early-stage decisions regarding target selection.
As CBiRC processes move toward industrial deployment, highly detailed TEAs based on pilot-plant data will be crucial to making investment and engineering decisions. However, ESTEA continues to be of major importance to the ERC and its industrial members. The decision to pursue a particular target has to be made when the knowledge state for the process is very weak, hence the willingness to sacrifice certainty in favor of the flexibility to rapidly assess a variety of potential processes. The errors inherent in such early-stage analyses are appreciated fully, and CBiRC continues striving to minimize errors through benchmarking as new targets proposed by researchers are explored through application of the tool.