Technology Selection for a Chemical Process
Abhijit Kharote
AGM - Process Engineering,
Ingenero Technologies (I) Pvt Ltd
Shardul Shindadkar
Sr. Executive-Sales, Marketing
& Business Development,
Ingenero Technologies (I) Pvt Ltd.

Technology Selection is a key process for Chemical organizations in their CAPEX projects planned for developing engineering solutions with a view to expand their existing assets and products improvement or even for entirely new businesses. This often involves evaluation and development of new technologies or use existing technologies readily available in public domain.

It is the need of the hour to design the plants in a more optimized, sophisticated and safe way as the overall awareness of the owners/ manufacturers has gone up over recent years. Owners are becoming increasingly energy and emission conscious and are keen to select the best possible option which can offer advantages in various areas of technology .

Engineering consultants often need to shoulder the responsibility of selecting the best possible technology for owners and optimize the Total Installed Cost(TIC) of the project with the most efficient plant set up. Relevant past experience, multi-disciplinary team of competent engineers and proven methodology based on accepted criteria for evaluation of technology are the main requisite of the activity.

Following are the main requirements for technology selection team
  • Meet client expectation with respect to technical competency and relevant technology knowledge.
  • Secrecy of the Licensor information
  • Putting information in front of the client in a factual manner i.e transparently sharing the data collected, calculations performed and basis used for analysis
Technology evaluation involves major contribution by Process Engineering discipline, however, a strong multidisciplinary team shall be involved to evaluate all the aspects of technology such as CAPEX, OPEX, Environmental impacts, waste generation, utility consumptions etc.

Process Technology selection may be needed differently during the various phases of a Project right from the concept phase to execution phase as listed below:
  • Selection out of different process schemes to meet the same objective(this shall be carried out during detailed feasibility report stage)
  • Selection out of different unit operations to meet the same objectives (This shall be carried out during
  • conceptual or pre-FEED stage)
  • Selection out of catalytic & non catalytic process routes (This shall be carried out during conceptual or pre- FEED stage)
  • Selection out of open art and licensed technologies (This shall be carried out during conceptual or pre-FEED stage)
  • Selection out of different vendors for the same type of process (This shall be carried out after FEED stage)
  • Selection out of different catalyst systems from same vendor (This shall be carried out after FEED stage)
In a typical CAPEX project life cycle, following three phases are involved in a technology selection process:

Detailed Feasibility Report Phase - includes a detailed feasibility study of shortlisted technologies, review of proposals, technical suitability, identifying alternatives of the shortlisted technology, if any and their evaluation, preliminary financial analysis, identifying opportunities of in -house technology development
  • Conceptualisation or Pre-FEED Phase - includes defining licensors selection criteria, handling licensor enquiries, vendors identification, technological feedback from licensors, design basis revisions based on feedback from licensors and preparation of a final shortlist of qualified licensors
  • FEED Phase - includes RPF preparation, evaluating technological responses, scoring responses and recommending a licensor, supporting negotiations, refining the design basis, developing a facility design basis, assessing risks, evaluating and filing for any IP protection
Preparation of Enquiry Specification:

The quality of proposal received depends on the quality of input data supplied to Licensors or vendors as a part of enquiry specification. Properly defined conditions, specification and capacities will help Licensor to select the most appropriate process configuration. The required data from Licensor as a part of proposal like technical details, economic details, and performance guarantees etc. shall be clearly mentioned as a part of enquiry specification. Typical information to be provided as an enquiry specification is as given below.
  • Plant Capacity, on stream hours and turn down ratio
  • Plant configuration, no. of units/trains
  • Feed Specification
  • Product Specification
  • Utilities available and battery limit conditions
  • Specific design requirements based on site conditions i.e. maximization of air cooling, exchanger tube lengths, use of steam turbines or electrical motors etc
  • List of facilities/offsite area to be considered under Licensor scope i.e. tank farm, day tanks, and intermediate storage tanks.
  • List of documents to be furnished by Licensor as a part of technocommercial proposal
  • Specific environmental norms to be followed by Licensor based on site conditions/local regulations
  • Process Flow Diagrams with Material Balance
  • Process Description
  • Preliminary Equipment List
  • Performance of the plant and operating requirements i.e. regeneration of beds, decoking, off spec product management, on stream hours etc.
  • Utility and raw material consumption summary
  • Guaranteed consumption figures for catalyst, utilities and raw materials
  • Quantity and composition of the expected gaseous and liquid effluent streams
  • Proposed method of disposal and handling of the generated waste from the process
  • Licensor past track record with number of similar units installed in the past five years, number of operating units and number units in design for similar technology.
  • Performance Guarantees expected from Licensor
Sometimes Licensors are reluctant for providing guarantees on all the utilities and accordingly only key utility guarantees can be asked from Licensor like fuel gas, steam, electricity and cooling water.

Review of Technical Proposal and Raising the Technical Queries

Licensors or Vendors will provide the techno-commercial proposal in line with the enquiry specification of issued. A check list can be maintained with respect to data requested as a part of proposal and data received by Licensor. Accordingly missing data can be highlighted and requested from Licensor to complete a fair evaluation.

It is important that the evaluation engineer or team shall have relevant experience in handling similar technologies and knows the intricacies of the process. In parallel, additional literature search to be done to acquire useful information regarding latest technologies, benchmark energy consumptions, optimization techniques.

Evaluation of Proposal:

Careful review of received proposal is to be carried out and information received to be tabulated for easy comparison between various options. It shall be noted that Technology Evaluation is not Technical Bid Evaluation and accordingly weightage criteria needs to be properly defined. Missing information from proposal needs to be requested from Licensor and accordingly responses to queries raised to be documented. It is important to document all the communication during the Licensor interaction.

Technology evaluation criteria can be applied to all the received proposals and accordingly the comparison table can be prepared. Following are the typical points considered for the technology evaluation criteria.
  • Technical feasibility of the process to meet the specs as mentioned in enquiry specification
  • Proven technology
  • Environmental Aspects
  • Competitiveness
  • Sustainability
  • Raw Material, Chemicals & Catalyst Consumption
  • Licensor Track Record
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Integration with Other Units
  • Proprietary/Non-proprietary nature of technology
  • Safety and Ease of Operability
  • Plot area required for installation of the system
  • Capital Cost involved (CAPEX)
  • Operating & Maintenance Cost (OPEX)
  • Utility requirement
  • Waste generation and its disposal Each technology can be weighed against a predefined criteria based on provided information by respective Licensor. Additional information if required can be requested for clarifications. Depending on the phase of the project i.e. concept development stage, Pre Feed Stage, FEED Stage or Detail Engineering Phase the information from Licensor can attain more clarity as more specifically defined data can be generated during later stages of the project.
Commercial Compatibility of licensor shall also be considered based on following criteria
  • Total number of plant with their respective capacities Licensed by Licensor
  • Check whether Licensor has included the list of previous supplied plants and how many of these plants are under operation
  • Check and confirm the technology offered is not obsolete and Licensor is able to support during operations
  • No. of units supplied with similar or higher capacities than the unit under consideration. This will give affair idea about Licensor capability and readily providing the scale up design to meet the requirement.
Technology Salient features
  • Comparing the PFD and process description
  • Control of kay operating variables
  • Ease of operability and maintainability
  • Safety features provided
  • Special equipment and features of overall set up
  • Effluent generation and summary of emissions
  • Consistency of process, utility and effluent streams with battery limit conditions needs to be checked and accordingly identify any missing equipment from the preliminary equipment list
  • Check is any upstream purification unit is required so as to meet the stringent feed specification for
  • Licensor unit
Process Calculation
  • Specific raw material, catalyst and energy consumption
  • Conversion, yield, EOR and SOR performance
  • Major equipment sizes
  • Material of construction specified
  • Consistency of the heat and material balance provided
  • Amount of heat integration and possibility of further optimization
  • Use of solvents, additives etc. in the process
  • Auxiliary units such as incinerator, refrigeration, hot oil unit
  • The comparison table shall have numbers for different Licensors calculated in a similar manner to have fair comparison
  • If there are huge differences in the consumption values then necessary clarifications can be requested from respective Licensor
Safety Features of the Technology
  • Chances of runaway reaction
  • Overall hydrocarbon inventory expected
  • Use of hazardous material in the process as solvent or additives
Ease of operation and Maintenance
  • Number of fouling service exchangers
  • Coking or choking possibilities
  • Solid handling requirements
  • Dependability of one unit on another
  • Batch or continuous process configuration
  • Time intervals during catalyst regeneration, loading and activation etc.
  • Time required for hot and cold start up
  • Off spec product management
Effluent Generation and disposal

Effluent generation and its treatment is a major aspect now days. A fair evaluation with respect to type of effluent i . e . solid, liquid or gaseous stream, quantity and composition of the stream shall be evaluated.
  • Larger relief and blowdown loads will require larger investment in off-site facilities
  • Requirement of incinerators or thermal oxidizers depending up on type of compounds i.e. VOC or
  • HAPs
  • Requirement of primary treatment within ISBL before diverting it to central effluent treatment facility
Economic Evaluation

Depending on the stage of the project the accuracy of the data from Licensor will get increased. Conceptual stage proposal may have lesser details generated and larger price variation. FEED or detail engineering stage proposals are more accurate and with firm pricing. Accordingly CAPEX for Licensor unit and variable operating cost for unit shall be evaluated.
  • Completeness of equipment list for cost estimation
  • List of additional supplementary facilities/units required for Licensor unit
  • Percentage of cost considered for other disciplines such as piping, civil, structural, electrical and I & C.
Proven Technology

Different Licensors offer different technologies with various features and a careful evaluation needs to be carried out in all the aspects. The number of units operating worldwide, technology development and its integration with upstream and downstream units, potential for improvement, Licensor track record and R & D facilities to support the problems in running units are major factors to be considered during evaluation.

Licensor Selection

Licensor Selection is one of the most important steps in the overall process of a Technology Selection. It is essential to properly plan the activities when deciding which licensed technology should be utilized for a specific process.

Following activities are required to be carried out for Licensor selection:
  • Compiling a detailed list of Technologysuppliers from available literature/internet/past experience
  • Reviewing the published information of each of the shortlisted technologies with a view to ensure that they meet overall project objectives.
  • Contacting each Licensor to know their interest in offering respective technology that would meet project objectives
  • Verifying/Cross-checking the claims made by each Licensor by seeking direct feedback from their licensees and/or visiting the licensees' plants if possible and/or if required. Obtaining budgetary quotes from each Licensor for their respective technologies.
  • Evaluating all the budgetary quotes and short list the most prospective parties that would substantially meet project objectives /requirement
Criteria for Licensor Selection

The Criteria to be used for selecting a licensor are as follows: 1. Economical Evaluation
  • License Fees
  • Process Design Package Fees
  • Technical Support Fees
  • Liquidated Damages
2. Process Design
  • Utility Consumption
  • Technology
  • Emissions and Effluents
3. Catalyst and Yield Performance
  • Yields
  • Catalyst Performance
4. Licensor Experience
  • Greenfield units
  • Brownfield Units
  • Pilot plants
  • Semi-commercial plants
  • Retrofits
5. Licensor Proposal Package
  • Design Basis Description
  • Performance Guarantees
6. Licensor Technical Support
  • Process
  • Product
  • National
  • International
7. CAPEX Investment Impact
  • Number of Major Equipment
  • Proprietary Equipment
  • Long Delivery Items
8. Operations and Maintenance
  • Complexity of design
  • Operational Safety
  • Turndown
  • Modes of Operations
  • Emissions
Licensor Scope of Work

Scope of work considered by Licensor against the offered cost shall be verified. BEP of the unit, inspection, site supervision and commissioning support, operator and engineer training, support during operation and troubleshooting etc. needs to be considered and if there is any deviation taken from the enquiry specification.

Depending on the stage of the project the accuracy of the data from Licensor will get increased. Conceptual stage proposal may have lesser details generated and larger price variation


Technology selection and evaluation mentioned in above sections is suitable for in depth analysis of individual Licensor for offered technology and depends on the extent of data available from Licensor. Sometimes the data available from Licensor may not be adequate to carry out in depth evaluation due to improper enquiry specification, short time offered from client, Licensor's willingness to share the data depending on the phase of the project. In such cases extensive communication with Licensor needs to be carried out and data possible to the maximum extent to be acquired for fair evaluation.

Deviation may be taken to omit any specific criteria for evaluation in consultation with client. The evaluation criteria and weightage assigned to different aspects shall be agreed by client and accordingly evaluation shall be carried out.

Project department shall lead the Licensor communication and shall involve all the relevant disciplines in the evaluation process. Meetings with Licensor in presence of client at engineering consultant's office would be helpful in getting direct clarifications on many pending issues. All such discussions shall be properly documented and MOM to be issued to record the information shared.

Finally the preferred technology can be recommended in consultation client. The final technology evaluation report to be presented to client listing following major content
  • Project Background
  • Design Data considered
  • Enquiry Specification
  • Licensor short listing and communication
  • Received techno-commercial proposalsfrom Licensors
  • Evaluation criteria applied
  • Evaluation tables
  • Conclusion and recommendation