November 12, 2019

I wrote this CEP article after reading Geoffrey West's fascinating book 'Scale: The Universal Laws of Life and Death in Organisms, Cities and Companies'.

The models that I build rely largely on exponential scaling relationships for estimating capital costs. These relationships are normally empirical, but they are closely tied to equipment and plant charact...

March 25, 2019

Confusion about capital cost categories can cause problems in early stage cost modeling.

September 11, 2018

Cyclotron Road is a technology incubator embedded at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. It’s a home for innovators whose ideas are too challenging or high-risk to pursue as traditional venture-backed startups, specifically in ‘hard-tech’ fields like advanced materials, chemistry, and physics.

Bringing hard-tech technologies to market is expensive and it takes...

July 12, 2018

AIChE approached me with the idea of producing a one-hour live webinar related to my recent article for Chemical Engineer Progress on spreadsheet techno-economic modeling for new technologies. I was up for it, and it's going to air at 2pm EDT on September 5. 

I'm planning to expand on many of the topics from the article and also include some new ones. One...

January 23, 2018

Chemical Engineering Progress (CEP) is the flagship publication of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the world's leading organization for chemical engineers. The January 2018 issue delivers a new article by Chris Burk, titled 'Techno-Economic Modeling for New Technology Development', which teaches how spreadsheet software can be used...

August 29, 2017

Note: This article was originally published in AIChE's ChEnected blog.

The astute process engineer loves building stream tables in Excel. They find nothing so satisfying. Their enthusiasm is squandered, though, as they start using the data in further calculations. Hunting and pecking for the correct cell reference is slow, prone to error, and, in several o...

February 10, 2017

“It is an inescapable fact that estimates of resource requirements for future systems are beset with uncertainty. The question is not whether uncertainty exists, but rather in determining the magnitude and nature of the uncertainty.” – Paul Dienemann, RAND Corporation

Uncertainty in decision-making

Cost models are built with layer upon layer of assumptions....

January 17, 2017

“In terms of its consequences for decisions, the optimistic bias may well be the most significant cognitive bias. Because optimistic bias is both a blessing and a risk, you should be both happy and wary if you are temperamentally optimistic.”– Daniel Kahneman

Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics for his work on the psychology of judgement and dec...

December 19, 2016

​Investing in a new chemical technology is different than, for example, investing in a new mobile app. It’s not like you can lock a bunch of twenty-three year old chemical engineers in a closet for the weekend and expect them to emerge with a minimum viable product.

​Capital and operating costs are high and depend strongly on the results of R&D and scale-u...

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