Comparative TA

Basics for establishing an information system for a comparative technology assessment

Austria established a national Cleaner Production Center in 1996 and in the same year the EC adopted the Council Directive (96/61/EC) Concerning Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control. Both new activities require a transfer of information about so-called "best available techniques" (BAT).


For these reasons the Austrian Ministry of Environment commissioned a study to determine the "Basics for Establishing an Information System for a Comparative Technology Assessment". Part II of this project was carried out by the Institute of Technology Assessment of the Austrian Academy of Sciences together with the Department of Chemical Engineering of the University of Technology Graz. The task of part II was as follows.

  • (1) To determine the status quo of current documentations of BAT in Europe and UN-Organisations
  • (2) to develop a structure for future BAT documentations enabling a comparability of documentations
  • (3) to develop an appropriate set of characteristic numbers to enable a comparative assessment of process technologies concerning criteria of prevention and
  • (4) to determine the demands on a technology information system from the potential users' point of view.

In carrying out this task eleven international documentations of BAT were analysed, a structure for future BAT documentations was developed and tested for the case of textile dyeing. A general set of characteristic numbers was established which enables us to make a comparative assessment of the process technologies in two international prevention targets and which can be applied in the manufacturing sector as a whole. This set of characteristic numbers was also tested for the case of textile dyeing. Furthermore, potential users of technology information systems were interviewed in a written survey.

These activities produced the following findings: Currently documentations of BAT hardly ever contain any information about concrete technologies but are primarily about the principles of processes. In addition, at present only a few information systems exist worldwide which enable a comparison of process technologies from a preventive perspective. The structure developed for future BAT documentations has demonstrated its usefulness in the case of the example examined. Considerable differences in current BAT documentations concerning preventive measures were identified with the help of the structure developed. The test of the developed set of characteristic numbers, together with an analysis of two international expert systems results in an estimation of the possiblities and limitations of a comparative assessment of process technologies in general. Apart from the internationally unresolved problems associated with a comparison of different environmental "goods" (evaluating different kinds of ressources, emissions etc.) the major limitations result from the fact that in order to compare process technologies the related part of a process has to be defined very precisely. This leads to a situation where a comparison of process technologies has to be made separately for several similar but different cases, which requires a great deal of work, complicates the comparision and creates the possibilities of benchmarking limitations in general. The response of the interviewed potential users of technology informatioin systems shows that their requirements are as yet not clearly defined.

Based on the results the following conclusions are drawn for establishing an Austrian technology infomation system. In order to enable a comparison of process technologies it is necessary to collect technological data with respect to certain identified parameters otherwise process technologies cannot be assessed comparatively. Furthermore the related process units have to be defined relatively precisely. A possible structure for process units of the manufacturing industry is proposed.

Concerning the new IPPC-Directive of the EC the following conclusions can be drawn. Inclusion of preventive criteria in the determination process of "best available techniques" can be carried out with the developed set of characteristic numbers. However, the need to distinguish between several similar but different cases of a production does limit the implementation of this possibility.

12/1995 - 12/1997