New technologies can provide competitive advantages compared to established processes, but significant effort is required to transition a promising concept into a commercial reality
Many students study chemical engineering with the aspiration of someday inventing an innovative process that could be a true game changer. As we all know, creating a new process is quite complex. Compared to the rapid pace of advancements in other progressive industries, such as consumer electronics, telecommunications, software and automotive, in the world of high-volume, low-margin commodity chemicals, higher-value specialty chemicals and newer sustainable chemicals, process development and commercialization are more methodical and time-consuming.
This article is largely directed at illustrating the development lifecycle for petroleum refining and petrochemical processes, rather than those in the pharmaceutical, biochemical, mining or inorganic chemical industries. The intent is to describe how best to navigate the complex maze of process development, starting from basic research and development (R&D) to technical readiness and commercialization (Figure 1).
FIGURE 1. Demonstrating a promising new technology in a laboratory setting is just one…