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Managing “First-of-a-Kind” Projects in the CPI

| By Sebastiano Giardinella, Kevin O’Brien, Stephanie Brownstein, Jason Dietsch and Leslie Gioja, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Developing a new technology from idea to commercial production involves major risks. Presented here are tools that project-management teams can use to mitigate them

Technology development in the chemical process industries (CPI) involves designing and building facilities for which there is uncertainty about not only the technical requirements for implementation, but also the performance of the process and the costs to build and operate the facilities.

Project managers in charge of developing first-of-a-kind facilities face the challenge of controlling scope, schedule and budget, while also achieving performance targets and maintaining risks under tolerable levels, in an environment where previous project data are non-existent, and many aspects of the project must be inferred or assumed from related (but different) projects. The often resource-intensive nature of CPI facilities compounds this challenge, since typical demonstration projects could reach the millions, tens of millions (or in some cases, hundreds of millions) of dollars in costs. An unsuccessful demonstration could break a company, especially if it is a technology-focused startup.

For this reason, technology demonstration projects in the CPI often follow a stage-gate approach, with different decision points that seek to validate the initial assumptions and the technology’s feasibility. The goal of each stage should be to achieve a milestone that advances the technology readiness level (TRL) of the prospective technology. Each gate also presents a funding point, because each subsequent stage will be more capital-intensive, as the technology progresses from the laboratory to commercial scale.

This article describes the stages needed to develop a technology in the CPI from idea to commercialization (Figure 1) and provides an outline of the major risks involved in each stage and tools that the project manager may use to mitigate them.

FIGURE 1. The diagram represents a typical progression for a chemical process industries (CPI) project, moving from initial investigations of an idea to commissioning and operation of a facility

TRLs and technology maturation plans

When a new technology is in development, it is highly advisable (and often required, if the research and development is partially funded by a government agency) to assess the status of its maturity against an accepted benchmark. The TRL scale, originally created for the U.S. space program, presents a general framework to assess the technology. The TRL scale is now widely employed in different settings and has been adapted to different types of projects. Table 1 shows the definitions utilized by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE; Washington, D.C.; www.energy.gov) [1] and the European Commission (EC; Brussels; Belgium; commission.europa.eu) [2] on funded research and development programs. An example project progression would be the following:

• Basic experimental or paper research to understand the principles that set the foundations for the technology (TRL 1)

• Analytical work used to identify one or more practical applications (TRL 2)

• Laboratory-scale studies at the component level to validate analytical predictions combined with modeling and simulation (TRL 3)

• Rough integration of the components at a laboratory scale to compare experimental results against expected system performance under laboratory conditions (TRL 4)

• Integration of the components to a laboratory-scale system with a similar configuration to that of the final application, tested in conditions that replicate those of the final intended use (TRL 5)

• Scaling up to an engineering-scale model or prototype, testing in an environment similar to the one expected in industrial conditions, and evaluation of experimental results in the context of determining the requirements for a full-size operational system (TRL 6)

• Final design completion, construction and cold commissioning of a full-scale prototype (TRL 7)

• Hot commissioning, startup and operation of the full-scale prototype (TRL 8)

• Continued operation of the system in its final form under the full range of operating conditions (TRL 9)

The goal of the technology developer is to transition the technology to TRL 9. The path to accomplish this is a compromise between several constraints, which include time, budget and risk. For example, a transition from laboratory scale directly to commercial scale may seek to save time and cost by skipping intermediate pilot-scale tests, but at the risk of potential cost overruns or financial losses if key operational and performance parameters have not been adequately assessed. On the other hand, relatively mature components of the technology whose performance and cost can be accurately predicted using simulation models or widely accepted engineering practices may not need to undergo intermediate validation steps.

To determine the best path to advance the technology, the developer may want to prepare a technology maturation plan (TMP). The TMP is a living document, the intent of which is to define the steps necessary to progress technology from its current TRL to commercialization.

When assessing the TRL of a system, it is often advisable to separate the entire process into subsystems and components (in the CPI, this could refer to breaking down into unit operations or process blocks) and assess the TRL level of each individual subsystem using the scale in Table 1.

After evaluating the TRL of each subsystem or component, the developer coordinates with their R&D team what work needs to be performed for each to progress to commercialization. The R&D team will often find that several components or subsystems have already achieved a high TRL or are commercially available and will choose to focus on the steps needed to increase the TRL of the systems that are less developed. At one point, however (typically when aiming to achieve TRL 6), the entire system will need to be integrated and designed at a scale that will allow assessing operational performance.

The subsystems and components identified in the TMP will be used as a basis to estimate the resources and time needed to progress to the next level of technology readiness. The TMP evolves with the TRL of the technology, with each step to maturate the technology being more intensive in resources.

Table 2 shows a relative scale, fidelity and environment comparison for each TRL, as recommended by DOE [1]. In the table, the term “identical” means the test matches the final application in every respect. “Similar” means a match in almost every respect. The term “pieces” means a match to parts of the final application. And “paper” means the involves no actual hardware.

The next sections describe some of the typical work performed on each scale to improve the TRL.

Background research (TRLs 1–2)

Before committing resources toward laboratory work, the R&D team should perform an extensive literature review of the idea to understand the underlying principles, collect published data (including previous patents, material properties, reaction kinetics and thermodynamics, solubilities, equilibrium constants) or proprietary data that was developed inside the organization. The team should also define the properties of the raw materials and the required quality of the product, along with any other desired performance or cost targets (for example, to achieve a lower thermal consumption or a lower unit cost of product than commercially available competing technologies). Any gaps in the data are documented, since they can potentially become sources of technical risk. With said information, the team can now perform a paper study to visualize a production process capable of reaching the desired product quality with the available raw materials, utilizing the underlying principles of the technology.

Commercially available computer-simulation software can be employed (and is highly recommended) at this stage. Simulation tools can be used from molecular physics modeling of materials involved, to overall chemical process simulation, up to detailed fluid dynamics for a specific component in the system. These computer simulation tools typically contain a wide database of known component data or allow for experimental data to be incorporated when available. Some software tools also have models that allow estimating some component properties when neither database nor experimental data are available, but this introduces a higher degree of uncertainty in the results.

An initial optimization and alternatives analysis can begin at this stage, along with a preliminary assessment of process performance and unit cost of production for each potential process configuration. A sensitivity analysis should be performed over variables that have a high degree of uncertainty to assess the impact on the target process performance. An initial patent novelty search can be performed to identify potential improvements of the proposed process(es) over the state of the art.

Ideally, the result of this paper study should be at least one (and better yet, several) potential process configurations that can meet the desired performance and cost targets and be sufficiently different from existing technologies as to be patentable, along with a work plan for laboratory- and bench-scale experiments.

Lab- and bench-scale (TRLs 3–5)

Laboratory- and bench-scale testing should seek to fill all gaps in data from the component, reactions, or critical process steps, as well as verify the assumptions used in the initial paper study, and reduce the uncertainty in computer models, performance and cost estimates. Where applicable, testing procedures should adhere to standard methods, especially for characterization of materials.

Experimental work will involve procurement of materials (reactants, catalysts, reagents, consumables and so on), instruments and equipment. The instruments should have specifications, accuracy, resolution and sensitivity proper to the tests to be performed and be able to work under the expected range of test conditions. The equipment, from glassware to rotating and static equipment (including pumps, heat exchangers, mixers and so on) should be selected according to adequacy for the service requirements in all test conditions, and controllability. The assembly should include insulation, especially when measuring thermodynamic or kinetic data, to avoid errors due to heat transfer with the environment. Use of data acquisition systems and computer controls are recommended, especially at bench-scale testing.

Some reactants or raw materials, especially those with widely varying compositions or derived from non-commercial or non-standard mixtures (for example, solid waste, effluents, fluegas), can be simulated by utilizing synthetic samples created in the laboratory by mixing commercially available standard compounds. These synthetic samples allow testing the system performance against variations in source materials quality to identify any correlation between system output variables and said inputs.

Initial laboratory tests can utilize batch processing, where individual subsystems or unit operations are tested, and their outputs are fed to the following unit operations in the process, but bench-scale tests should progressively aim to integrate the subsystems until they are able to replicate a continuous or semicontinuous process. At this point, the R&D team should seek to run the bench-scale plant at conditions, and with materials, that more closely resemble those expected in a real-life environment (or under conditions that are close enough to be considered relevant).

Once the laboratory and bench-scale testing has concluded, all gaps of information about the physical, chemical, thermodynamic and kinetic behavior of the process should have been addressed. At this point, the initial computer-simulation models should be revisited and adjusted. The technical and economic performance of the process should be reassessed, with a lower level of uncertainty, and a concept of both a pilot-scale and a full-scale facility should be developed on paper. The concept for the pilot-scale facility will be part of the work plan for the next level of technology maturation.

Pilot process (TRL 6)

The next step in technology maturation consists of designing, building and operating a pilot plant. To design the pilot plant, an adequate scale should be selected (DOE recommends a typical of 1/10th the capacity of a commercial full-scale facility, though the scale could be adjusted depending on the system on evaluation [1]). The capacity of the pilot facility could also be defined in terms of the smallest available commercial component, when defining the process around a critical technology, or by the capacity of a module, if the project design team is thinking on a modular scaleup strategy.

The pilot-plant facility design should follow the regular engineering design process utilized for designing a conventional plant, with some caveats, as stated here:

• If possible, it is recommended to design the pilot plant in a manner similar to a skid-mounted packaged unit. This would enable temporary installation at different test sites to widen the range of relevant conditions where the full-scale unit is expected to operate, while also allowing convenient removal of the pilot unit from the test site after the tests have been completed.

• The design should consider adequate flexibility in operating flowrates, temperatures and pressures, and adequate controls to adjust these to cover a wide range of conditions, as expected in results.

• The design should ideally consider strategically located removable spools, isolation valves, spectacle blinds, and other facilities to enable quick maintenance access, replacement of parts, or on-the-go modifications if required (this is particularly important when the process handles solids, sludge, precipitates or similar substances that may present material handling, plugging, freezing or transport problems as operations begin).

• If the plant is expected to be tested under varying weather conditions (or transported to different locations), the design of the facilities should consider the range of expected extreme conditions and include measures for winterization, tropicalization or other. Electric heat tracing or steam jackets could be considered if the plant will not typically be expected to operate under extreme winter but could be installed temporarily at a location with very cold temperatures.

• In some cases, the pilot-plant design can exclude utilities (unless the utilities form an integral part of the technology, such as in waste-energy recovery from the process). In this case, the utilities balance should consider the quantities and specifications of utilities (such as steam, compressed air, nitrogen, natural gas, electricity) that the plant will require to operate. When possible, these could be sourced from the test location if it has excess capacity, or from temporary facilities (for example, temporary electrical interconnection, or rental equipment) put in place for each test run. If the utilities are to be sourced from third parties, then instrumentation should be in place to measure the quantity and supply conditions.

• Sufficient instrumentation and adequate instrument redundancy should be considered to allow accurate readings of as many variables affecting the design as technically and economically possible. The data to be collected from the instruments should be sufficient to allow construction of accurate operating heat and material balances, and utility balances.

• Apart from analyzers located at key points in the process (for example, around the reactor, in the fluegas vents or product streams and so on), the design should include sample collection points at many different locations (and in the case of columns or separators, at different heights), to allow for gathering of additional information that was not originally considered during operations.

• Under some circumstances (if regulations allow it), given the temporary nature of pilot-plant operation and its R&D purpose, the project may have the opportunity to file for more expedited environmental and construction permitting, which can reduce development time in comparison with a conventional CPI project.

When procuring equipment and materials for the pilot, it is desirable that key components of the technology be custom-designed and built for the application (for example, if the technology involves an innovative contactor or internals design). Other non-technology-specific items could be sourced from standard commercially available items (typically more economical than custom-engineered items). If budget is a constraint, the team can also evaluate repurposing older (but still functional) pieces of equipment. There may be a risk that standard “off-the-shelf” or repurposed equipment may not be the best match or may have a lower-than-desired efficiency for the range of testing conditions. On the other hand, a larger number of non-standard, first-of-a-kind components also increases risk of failures or unpredictability of performance.

When preparing for operations, the R&D team should prepare a test plan that will enable them to acquire the data needed for scaleup and optimizations, aiming for the pilot plant. These tests should include variation of parameters that affect plant performance, collection and analysis of samples to verify product and byproduct compositions and quality, utility consumption per unit produced (including specific energy use), emissions per unit produced (now more relevant because of industry drive for decarbonization of processes), and any other parameters relevant to performance and cost estimation. Test duration may vary depending on the type of system, but typical ranges are 500–1,000 hours of continuous operation.

Testing documentation, aside from the collected data bank from instruments and analyses, should also consider operational parameters, such as unscheduled maintenance events, operational upsets, and any other deviations from expected operations and their workarounds. Any modifications made to the process while running the tests should also be documented in piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs) and other applicable plant drawings. The test results report should have validated material and energy balances, utility balances and accurate performance metrics.

The results from the pilot test report should be used to update the technoeconomic analysis and business case analysis for the technology. Accurate capital, operations and maintenance costs, and performance parameters obtained from the pilot-plant construction and operations should be used in conjunction with cost-escalation factors to improve pro-forma project financial statements for full-scale commercial projects.

The emissions, effluents, utility and energy consumption data should also be used to perform more accurate lifecycle analysis (LCA), especially if the technology is intended as a cleaner, more environmentally friendly alternative to an existing production process.

Full-size demonstration (7–9)

The next stage of technology maturation is to design, build and operate a full-scale demonstration system under the expected range of operating conditions. Given the larger size of the full-scale demonstration plant, development times and schedules will be similar to conventional large CPI projects (see Figure 1, for example), and will require applying for regular environmental and construction permits approval.

Learnings from the design and operation of the pilot plant will be used as reference for the full-size facility. The process flow diagrams, heat and material balances, P&IDs, equipment data sheets, specifications for piping, instruments and components can be used as basis, considering all markups or recommendations from the pilot-plant operations. Redundancy requirements (for example, pumps, compressors, and other vital equipment) can be higher for the demonstration plant, since it will be expected to operate continuously under commercial (or service) conditions.

When determining the scaleup strategy, a typical decision is to scale up by increasing capacity of the equipment, or by adding modules of similar capacity. Scaling up by increasing capacity usually comes with the benefit of economies of scale, but increases the risk that performance and cost will deviate from those predicted from the pilot-plant data. Also, very large pieces of equipment may require on-site assembly.

Scaling up by adding modules may come at the initial cost of dis-economies of scale, due to a higher number of smaller pieces of equipment, but may have several advantages that could prove beneficial in the long run: the smaller scaleup factor reduces the risk of unpredictability in cost and performance, the smaller module size may allow serial manufacturing at a factory (which benefits quality assurance and control), and the larger number of units may allow for learning curve effects to improve productivity (and reduce costs).

Often, a combination of both strategies is desirable. The team may select to design and build modules from a minimum commercially competitive capacity (as determined through technoeconomic and business case analysis) for the first-of-its-kind full-scale plant, and increase the module capacity over several future iterations of the technology, to access economies of scale while maintaining quality control of manufacturing. The initial modules can be designed to fit into units transportable by land or sea, and later modules that exceed transportation size limits could be separated into a series of packages (or “kits”) that can be manufactured at the factory, then transported and sequentially assembled on site.

When evaluating the procurement and construction strategy for the first commercial plant, it is often recommended to begin considering long-term logistic solutions, including potential partnerships with suppliers of goods and services. At this point, the team may decide which parts of the supply chain to source from third-party suppliers, and which to source in-house.

Large engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) firms that have well-established supply chains may elect to adhere to their existing processes and perform several design and assembly tasks in-house. Smaller or startup companies may opt for third-party engineering companies for design and workshops for module assembly tasks. When outsourcing design or assembly tasks, it is important to have adequate intellectual property agreements in place, as discussed below.

Performance testing for the demonstration plant should be similar to tests performed in similar projects in the CPI and should aim to validate fulfilment of desired performance targets. Performance curves, obtained from variation of flowrates and conditions (for example, start up, variation of load and so on) should be another important output of performance testing.

The cost and performance data collected in the performance tests should enable the team to make final updates to the techno-economic analysis and business case analysis, to improve their accuracy.

Risk-mitigation strategies

Each stage of technology development will have a different risk profile. For instance, low TRL stages will have higher technical and market risks, because the yields, efficiency and other performance parameters of the technology, and its fit with the market needs, are not yet understood; whereas higher TRL stages will have higher project-execution risks, since potential cost overruns, schedule delays, and health, safety and environmental risks associated with a large-scale project can bear a large impact on the organization.

Table 3 shows some typical risks faced at different TRL levels along with typical risk-reduction strategies that could be implemented.

Financing strategies. Technology development has inherent risks that make it unattractive to conventional infrastructure project-finance structures, given the lack of reference information to predict future cash flows (and debt repayment).

Large, established companies typically have an R&D budget to explore new technologies and may be able to fund the technology development using revenue from their ongoing operations. In their case, the R&D team should remain aware of internal resource allocation procedures and timelines, to provide sufficient information to secure internal approval and reserve funds for the next cycle (which varies from organization to organization, but frequently is organized so that project proposals are submitted some time in advance of the end of the fiscal year). The R&D team’s proposal, depending on the size of the organization, may compete against other initiatives for resources, so it is important to ensure that the project is aligned with the organization’s strategic direction and that it is structured considering the organization’s financial situation.

Small businesses or startups, on the other hand, are typically limited by cash flow. For these organizations, the development plan should allow for significant investment of team time into fundraising activities. Different organizations offer alternatives for dilutive funding (cash contributions in exchange for a share of the company), ranging from incubators, angel investors, venture capital firms, and others. When searching for funding from these sources, the R&D team should have a clear assessment of the resources needed to achieve the next milestone in technology maturation and a clear plan to spend those resources. The R&D team should evaluate different potential investor groups, their strategy and stage at which they enter, and be aware that lower TRLs are associated with lower valuations of companies.

For large and small companies alike, there is the opportunity to apply for grants. Grants are a good source of non-dilutive funding and reduce financial risks of the project, by covering all or part of the investment required. Several agencies issue calls for proposals aimed at finding solutions for targeted problems, typically in line with public policies.

Grant applications are typically very competitive and require considerable time and effort to put together. When preparing a proposal, it is generally recommended to involve members of the team who are familiar with specific agency requirements and have a track record of submitting proposals and securing funding. Apart from the technical aspects inherent to the technology, the business aspects related to its competitiveness or marketability, and the managerial capabilities needed to successfully execute the project scope and meet the project objectives on budget and on schedule, the team working on the proposal should also address the political and stakeholder aspects of the project, with particular emphasis on how the success of the project will create benefits to the economy and the community. Participation of universities, small, disadvantaged businesses, or organizations from the community, though not necessarily required to fulfill the grant proposal requirements, is often positively viewed by evaluators.

When applying for grant funding, the R&D team should consider the schedule for the grant application, the resource requirements to deliver the pre-application and application documents in time, and the time from proposal preparation until award announcements and post-award negotiations (which could take several months). The R&D team should have a resource-allocation plan for staff that is not dependent on receiving grant funding at a specific date, to reduce risks.

Intellectual property management. Throughout the entire technology-maturation process, the R&D team will need to collect data, produce documents and engineering deliverables, exchange information with third parties (such as suppliers, partners, funding organizations or potential customers), so it is important to have a strategy in place to protect the intellectual property (IP) associated with the technology.

A data-management plan can serve as a basis to identify the types of information to be produced and how they will be managed. Project information should be maintained at a secure location with adequate information-security measures.

When communicating with third parties about the project, any material that could be published or shared should be reviewed to ensure that it does not contain sensitive information. If confidential information is to be shared, then non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) should be signed between the parties involved in the exchange, and the confidential information should be marked accordingly.

If third parties will be involved in the engineering, procurement and construction of the plant, or in other R&D activities, it is important to clearly establish, in writing, the ownership terms of the existing IP and any improvements that may arise from project development.

Any improvements over the state of the art that are deemed patentable should be kept secret until a patent application has been filed (in some jurisdictions, the inventor has a window of time to file a patent application from initial disclosure, but many jurisdictions do not allow it). The patent, once awarded, should be assigned in accordance with previous agreements regarding ownership of the IP.

License agreements, including provisions for royalty payments, should also be discussed and negotiated before the plant enters commercial operations, or before any specific party aside from the assignee wishes to offer the technology to potential customers.

Concluding remarks

First-of-a-kind CPI project development can be challenging and risky. It is crucial that the team responsible is familiar with the stages of technology maturation, the risks involved, and strategies to mitigate them. The steps of technology development should seek to minimize uncertainty in technical performance and costs, and the stage gates should aim to validate that the proposed technology can achieve target metrics before committing further resources. Several strategies can be utilized to minimize scaleup risks, and several funding options can be leveraged to share financial risks with entities that have considerably more resources and are willing to assume those risks if it can lead to a large market potential or positive societal impact.

Edited by Scott Jenkins

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the individuals and organizations that have sponsored, hosted or contributed work to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)-coordinated projects, especially the U.S. Department of Energy and UIUC.

References

1. U.S. Department of Energy. Technology Readiness Assessment Guide. Document No. DOE G 413.3-4A. September 15, 2011.

2. Horizon 2020 – Work Programme 2014–2015. General Annexes. G. Technology readiness levels (TRL).

3. Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Capturing CO2 from Industrial and Power Generation Sources. Engineering Biphasic Solvent Based System. www.ideals.illinois.edu/items/122813.

4. McConville, Francis X. “The Pilot Plant Real Book – A Unique Handbook for the Chemical Process Industry.” FXM Engineering and Design. 1st ed. 2002.

Authors

Sebastiano Giardinella is the technical lead for solar photovoltaics (PV) and energy storage at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), Prairie Research Institute (PRI), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1 Hazelwood Drive, Champaign, IL 61820, USA. Phone: +1-217-953-1424, Email: [email protected]; URL: www.istc.illinois.edu) where he performs project management and technical studies in energy storage and carbon capture projects. He has experience in feasibility studies, corporate management, project management and process engineering consulting in projects for the chemical and energy industries in the U.S. and Latin America. He is a project management professional (PMP), holds one patent for a long-duration energy storage (LDES) technology based on compressed gas. He has cofounded an engineering design firm (www.ecotekgrp.com), an environmental analysis company (www.ambitek.com.pa), and an LDES startup (www.cgescorp.com).

Kevin O’Brien is the director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and Illinois State Water Survey, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (same address; Phone: +1-217-244-7682, Email: [email protected]) and also a research affiliate at Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) at the university. A technology expert and project manager with more than 20 years of experience, he has managed multi-million-dollar programs related to renewable and sustainable technologies and practices in the U.S. and abroad. His international project experience includes Europe, Middle East and Asia. Among his professional awards are R&D Magazine’s R&D 100 award and a Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Technology Transfer. He has also been involved with advisory services to the state of California and utility companies on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. O’Brien previously built and directed an innovation program at the Stanford Research Institute that allows government agencies and private-sector organizations to use their existing products and capabilities to identify new applications and expand into new markets.

Stephanie Brownstein is technical lead for carbon capture scale-up at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (same address; Phone: +1-217-300-8368, Email: [email protected]), where she manages and contributes to multiple U.S. Department of Energy-funded carbon-capture scale-up projects at the pilot and full-size demonstration scale. Her focus is developing pilot systems for novel technologies that can be deployed at a variety of host sites, including power plants, wastewater-treatment facilities, and industrial facilities. Notable projects include large pilot testing of advanced post-combustion CO2 capture technology at a coal-fired power plant, fluegas aerosol pretreatment technologies to minimize post-combustion CO2 capture amine losses, and full-scale front-end engineering design (FEED) to retrofit an 816-MWe coal-fired power plant with post-combustion CO2 capture.

Jason Dietsch, is an associate scientist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (same address; Email: [email protected]), where he has been working in the carbon-capture industry for five years. He has led several front end engineering design (FEED) projects to advance the technology readiness level (TRL) of several types of carbon capture technologies. Notable projects include large pilot testing and full scale FEEDs of post-combustion carbon capture at coal and natural gas power plants, direct air capture feasibility and FEED studies. Before ISTC, he has had experience in chemical processing plants engineering and operations.

Leslie Gioja is currently an associate research scientist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (same address; Email: [email protected]), where he manages large-scale research projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy on energy, carbon capture, and sustainability, including a large FEED project for a 21st Century Power Plant comprising advanced combustion turbine combined with boiler, post-combustion carbon capture, algae CO2 utilization and battery storage. His previous experience includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Village of Mahomet, Ill., the private sector, and the U.S. Navy, where he acted as a nuclear-trained submarine officer.