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New Technology Development

Jacobs Consultancy brings to the inventor and entrepreneur a skill set that includes all aspects of developing and commercializing novel technology. Our capabilities include but are not limited to:

  • Process development assistance / troubleshootingInventor
  • Process development program design
  • Catalyst and adsorbent development
  • Feasibility Studies (Technical / Economic Evaluations)
  • Conceptual commercial process design and cost estimates
  • Identification of key commercialization risk issues
  • Business Plan development support
  • Development of Risk mitigation strategies
    • We perform both Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA) of technology, covering technology development, technology performance, market, business development, HS&E, regulatory and IP risk.
  • Review and analysis of pilot plant data and audits of process development programs
  • Pilot Plant Design, construction management and start-up
  • Key process equipment evaluation or development
  • Demo run management and audits
  • Identification of process unit test and sample analysis facilities
  • Participating in HAZOPs, PHAs, or other evaluations intended to identify safety and environmental risk issues
  • Benchmarking against existing technologies
  • Intellectual Property (IP) assessments
  • Due Diligence (for investors and banks)

A number of our consultants have significant experience in technology development, pilot plant and/or demonstration plant programs, commercialization of first-time technologies, and participation in stage-gate programs designed to minimize cost and errors along the development path.

Selected Project Highlights

Miscellaneous Biofuels Technology Evaluations [up]

We have recently completed a number of projects related to novel biofuels technology, including:

  • Biomass to hydrogen (gasification)
  • CO2 to ethanol (algae)
  • Biomass to fuels (gasification)
  • Syngas to ethanol

The scope of these projects has ranged from preliminary due diligence to full independent technical evaluation. In certain cases, we were directly involved in technology development work.

Bitumen Value-Capture Technology Development Program [up]

Our client was developing two novel technologies to capture value from the bitumen contained in the Alberta Oil Sands. Jacobs Consultancy was commissioned to provide assistance with the business case justification, including demonstration plant size and cost, commercial performance and capital cost, and a limited amount of pricing guidelines.

The scope of our work included:

  • Providing expert technical consultation to translate the latest catalyst test run data into performance data representative of commercial operation.
  • Developing preliminary process design and cost estimate for the commercial scale units.
  • Developing preliminary design basis and cost estimate for the pilot plant demonstration units.
  • Supporting our client’s development plan and business case update.

To deliver the above scope, we reviewed our client’s pilot plant results for both technologies and determined reaction kinetic information for a commercial design. We then estimated commercial unit yield and quality information, and developed commercial unit flow schemes. The heat and weight balances as well as the utility requirements were estimated for both units, and we provided budgetary cost estimates based on cost curves for similar commercial equipment.

Our role also involved preparing Design Basis Memorandums for the demonstration units to provide necessary information to potential vendors. Finally, we provided guidance for pricing the technologies’ projected feed and products for a commercial-sized facility.

Technical Review & Comparative Assessment: Bitumen Upgrading Process [up]

Jacobs Consultancy was asked by a key player in the oil sands industry to evaluate the potential commercial feasibility of its novel bitumen upgrading process, which relied on steam cracking of bitumen. The primary focus for the confidential process was to develop a simple field upgrader for Canadian bitumen, which would produce a liquid product stream that would meet pipeline specifications. However, the client believed that the process might also be an attractive option for converting heavy, bottom-of-the-barrel material in a traditional refinery.

At the client’s request, we used data from the National Centre for Upgrading Technology (NCUT) in Canada and compared the client’s process to those NCUT found to be most attractive based on simple return on investment. The specific processes for comparison were:

  • Solvent Deasphalting (ROSE)
  • Visbreaking
  • High Conversion Soaker Cracking (HSC)
  • Tank Bottoms Recovery and Remediation (TaBoRR)
  • LR-Cracking

Our work focused on a comparison of the following issues:

  • Economics for upgrading heavy oil or pitch in either a field setting or in an integrated refinery
  • Simplicity of technology / process
  • Size
  • Stability of product slate
  • Environmental impact

We also devoted considerable effort to identifying and discussing the technical strengths and challenges associated with the client’s process.

Fatal Flaw Review (Phase 1): CO2 Injection for Enhanced Oil Recovery [up]

Jacobs Consultancy performed a preliminary and independent fatal flaw review of an inventive method for the utilization of associated gas currently being flared from oil fields. Jacobs Consultancy identified fatal flaws in the process that would prevent its successful commercialization as well as other areas of major concern requiring urgent attention to progress the successful development of the technology.

The process for CO2 capture and injection for enhanced oil recovery is intended to be applied at oil fields to capture associated gas and to enable enhanced oil production. The process comprises a multipurpose power plant that can produce electricity, CO2, steam and oxygen. Carbon dioxide, steam and oxygen (O2) are mentioned in the patent as potential stimulants for enhancing the oil production by injection in the oil field, and electricity is to be used to cover the power requirements of the oil field operations.

Jacobs Consultancy’s approach was to review and analyze public and confidential data supplied by the inventors. To help in the review, Jacobs Consultancy contacted the equipment suppliers for the two main equipment items that are to be used in a novel form and which the inventive method depends upon to review the commercialization status and technical application of these items. Jacobs Consultancy also looked at the wider implications of the technology specifically related to CO2 injection and enhanced oil recovery.

Advancement of CO2 Injection Method for Enhanced Oil Recovery (Phase 2) [up]

Our client was developing a patented technology to increase oil recovery by using CO2 through utilization of associated gas from oil and gas fields. Having already performed a fatal flaw analysis of the technology, we modified the design to overcome fatal flaws in the basic process design and established a preliminary process design basis for an update of our client’s European patent application.

We then supported our client in establishing a strategy to enable the commercialization of the technology. Key to the strategy was working with the candidate equipment providers to establish that their own equipment, also in development and uncommercialized, could be used in the invention. This was followed by the development of a funding strategy that included approaching various financial and major upstream exploration companies.

Technical Review of Oil Shale in Situ Production Methods [up]

Our client, an international pharmaceuticals company, had acquired a Swedish firm that had taken out intellectual property rights in the 1950s for heating shale and creating a wave front of shale oil for enhancing the overall recovery process. The patent papers, technical documentation, and related materials are held in a corporate archive in Sweden.

Our client was approached by an international major oil company that was seeking the right to access the archives and use the technology. We were retained to review the intellectual property and confirm the technical validity, application of the patent, and to identify the market potential.

In completing this assignment, we performed the following tasks:

  • Visited the archives site to review all intellectual property materials associated with the technology and opined on the technical basis;
  • Compared conceptual application of the technology to existing competitive solutions and developed a SWOT analysis of the technology vs. alternatives;
  • Identified associated technologies that have synergy or would add value to the technology; and
  • Developed a conceptual quality basis for commercial application of the technology including required scale, capital cost, operating cost, and expected economics.

We also presented several strategy and potential pricing options to our client to use in negotiations with the oil company.

Technical Review of Gas-to-Liquids Project [up]

We were retained by the Lenders to serve as the Technical Consultant for a Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) project in Qatar. In the course of our work, we conducted a technical assessment of the technology licensor’s work, and also commented on how the Project would be viewed by the financial community for limited or nonrecourse project financing.

We identified three major areas of the Project that could potentially make project financing difficult:

  • Reformer operating conditions
  • Catalyst performance
  • Scale-up of the licensor’s slurry bed reactor

As part of our recommendations, we suggested that additional testing be conducted with a pilot plant and that the licensor implement any requisite changes identified as a result of the pilot plant operations.

Marketability Assessment of Oil Upgrading Technology [up]

Jacobs Consultancy was asked to assess the marketability of a Kazakhstan client’s newly developed oil upgrading technology. At the time of our involvement, the technology had been tested in Kazakhstan at a pilot plant level, and a patent application had been filed.

The process claimed to be capable of converting heavy oils such as heavy crudes, heavy fuel oils, and oil tars/asphalts into light, sweet finished products.

Some of the claims made in the documents provided for our review were supported by pilot plant data, while other claims were substantiated through onsite inspection or via queries to outside vendors.

In our work we reviewed and discussed both the physical process and the economics of producing and marketing the end products.

Feasibility Analysis for Hydrocarbon Upgrading Demonstration & Training Facility [up]

The primary objective of this multi-year effort, conducted on behalf of a joint government and industry consortium, was to identify and evaluate the technical and commercial viability of new and emerging technologies that have breakthrough potential with respect to upgrading Alberta bitumen resources to high-quality refined products and petrochemicals in an environmentally friendly manner.

In carrying out the first part of the study, Jacobs Consultancy focused on three core areas:

  • Technical viability—Is the new technology technically sound and viable from a scientific, engineering, and fundamental chemistry point of view?
  • Commercial viability—Can the new technology be successfully scaled up and built at a size and economy required for commercial application?
  • Competitive viability—Is the new technology economically competitive with other proven and new technologies in the same or similar applications?

Results of the study were used as the basis to move into the next phases of the overall project, including front end engineering design. The primary activities carried out by Jacobs Consultancy during the study included:

  • Reviewed list of technologies with breakthrough potential initially identified by the client consortium and recommended additional technologies not already identified. Other new technologies were identified for consideration through a review of both internal databases and external public sources, and by contacting various technology developers and licensors. Breakthrough potential was defined as processes alone or integrated that, compared to the base case:
    • Increased the profitability of the upgrader/refinery at a given price set either through increased production or reduced capital/operating cost
    • Provided a dramatically different product slate over the base case
    • Significantly reduced environmental cost
    • Reduced risk exposure to market conditions (competitive economics at lower price set with lower capital exposure)
  • Screened new technologies against defined and agreed upon criteria for break-through potential. A preliminary analysis and screening was carried out to determine which technologies would be carried forward for further technical and economic evaluation.
  • Developed a summary of operating performance and cost data for existing and new technologies, including information relative to general technology application/limitations, process performance, critical operating conditions or equipment considerations, capital and operating costs, reliability and availability, etc.
  • Developed configurations, stream balances, and cost estimates (±40%) for base case upgrading schemes based on delayed coking and for alternate upgrading schemes with selected new technologies. We utilized PetroPlan to develop overall configuration models for 19 cases considered in the study. The configurations were developed based on upgrading 200 KBD of Athabasca bitumen to finished motor fuel products (gasoline and diesel) and petrochemical feedstocks (ethane cracker feed, C2=, C3=, and benzene).
  • Performed technical and economic evaluations of selected technologies, including comparison with the base case schemes using delayed coking as the primary upgrading step.
  • Developed final recommendations, including a preliminary execution plan with budgetary costs for the next phases of the project.

Used Lube Oil Re-Refining Technology Evaluation [up]

Jacobs Consultancy was asked to perform a study on a new technology to be utilized for used lube oil re-refining. The technology was at the pilot plant level, and the client was considering the construction of the first commercial unit.

Our work included the following scope:

  • Technical feasibility assessment
  • Engineering / plant design assessment
  • Cost estimate preparation for commercial-scale unit
  • Evaluation of commercial-scale economics

Technology Assessment of Bitumen Upgrading [up]

In this 3-phased study, Jacobs Consultancy was retained to evaluate the technology available for upgrading bitumen. Tasks by phase were as follow:

  • Phase 1—Review and validate pilot plant results. This phase also included our high-level evaluation of the commercial-scale economics and a preliminary design for a demonstration plant.
  • Phase 2—Evaluate an implementation plan for installing a 200 BPD demonstration unit using the client’s new heavy oil upgrading technology. In addition to reviewing and comparing the client’s technology to competing offerings, our work included defining the demonstration plant objectives; evaluating plant complexity; addressing issues related to location; and providing updated cost estimates and commercial-scale economics.
  • Phase 3—Prepare design basis and preliminary design for the demonstration unit. We prepared a process flow diagram and equipment list, which was used to update the cost estimate. This phase also included:
    • In-depth evaluation of the process economics at the commercial scale
    • Review of product qualities and values using LP modeling
    • Utility summary for the demonstration plant
    • Review of potential applications for the technology
    • Analysis of competing technologies.

Novel Technology Quantitative Risk Assessment [up]

Our client was interested in three different scenarios to develop its novel gasification technology. These scenarios (or process development strategies) included:

  • Going from pilot plant stage to full scope demonstration plant (with gas recycle capability) to a scaled-down single-train commercial plant, then full (+3 trains) commercial plant.
  • Go from pilot plant stage to reduced scope demonstration plant (without gas recycle capability) to single-train commercial plant, then full (+3 trains) commercial plant.
  • Go from pilot plant stage directly to single-train commercial plant, then full (+3 trains) commercial plant (skip demonstration step).

Jacobs Consultancy was retained to provide improved understanding and quantification of the differences in risk exposure between the three process development paths. Additionally, we analyzed the costs of mitigation of the differential risk.

To conduct our study, we are using a 5-step Quantitative Technology Risk Assessment and Decision Support (QTRA/DS) process. This process involved:

  • Clearly defining the potential process development scenarios and clarifying the driving forces and known issues behind each one
  • Non-quantitative Risk Identification
  • High-level risk analysis
  • Quantitative Risk and Risk Mitigation Analysis
  • Building simple simulation models

Our QTRA and decision support consulting services helped our client decide on a path forward.

Lube Oil Reprocessing Technology & Engineering Review [up]

At the request of a technology provider, Jacobs Consultancy evaluated and presented its observations and conclusions about the commercial viability of a new technology for reprocessing used lube oil.

Our work included a review of pilot plant operations and data, along with a review of the preliminary process design for a commercial-scale unit processing 2,500 BPD of used lube oil. We also assisted the client by providing engineering solutions to several problems noted during the course of our review.

New Technology Due Diligence [up]

Our client developed a new upgrading technology based on thermal conversion of petroleum residues in a horizontal fluidized reactor. As part of its development activities, the client embarked on a path to build a demonstration plant at the 1,000-2,000 bbl/day scale. Financing of the project was subject to an overall due diligence of the technology and associated process.

Services provided by Jacobs Consultancy for this due diligence included our review and opinions of the following:

Client-provided commercial flowsheet

  • General ‘soundness’ of the design from a process engineering perspective
  • Operability and reliability of the suggested process configuration, based on experience with other plants
  • Environmental performance of the flowsheet compared to accepted norms in the industry

Capital cost estimate

  • Completeness of the estimate
  • Identification of any values that appear anomalous

Design basis for the upgrading reactor to be implemented in the demonstration plant

  • Consistency of the design with the data generated as part of the development of the reactor
  • Appropriateness of the scale-up techniques applied

We also provided an overall assessment of the merits of the client’s upgrading technology, incorporating our results from the above as well as a review of due diligence items provided from third parties regarding the project economics and the results of a completed 1 BPD pilot unit test program.

Potential Uses for Metallic Membranes [up]

Jacobs Consultancy was retained by a research firm to study the potential utilization of the client's metallic membranes to recover hydrogen from catalytic cracker offgas in petroleum refineries. After considering a number of options, the client narrowed the focus to resid cracker offgas applications and provided us with the estimated cost of the membranes and the expected hydrogen recovery. Using this information and in-house data and expertise, our project team performed the following tasks:

  • Process design, material balance and preliminary cost estimate of a hydrogen extraction facility using the metallic membrane.
  • Cost estimates of various refinery hydrogen production schemes based on the steam reforming of natural gas.
  • Economic comparison of hydrogen recovery by metallic mem-branes from resid cracker offgas versus hydrogen generation by steam reforming.


For more information on our capabilities in this area, please contact us.

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