Interview with Thermax’s Pravin Karve

“We are committed to our promise of conserving resources, preserving the future”

Thermax Limited is focusing on developing new technologies solutions that can meet net-zero emissions requirements and decarbonisation targets of the users. The company is developing cutting-edge technologies for waste to energy, agro-based hybrid multi-fuel combustion, newer waste heat recovery applications and electric boilers, among other things.

Excerpts from a recent interview with Pravin Karve, Chief Executive Officer, Thermax Babcock and Wilcox Energy Solutions …

What is your perspective on the current state of equipment market in the country?

Post the first wave of Covid-19, the equipment market has shown significant growth, further boosted by the public sector undertaking infra push. The government’s aggressive plan of investments in infrastructure projects promises higher demand for new equipment. We also continue to see demand across all major industries currently in the country. Additionally, due to the global push towards energy transition to achieve a low or zero-carbon economy, we are witnessing traction in biomass, industrial waste and waste hear recovery applications.

What are the new and emerging technology trends in the power sector?

The government has asked all power plants to co-fire 5-7 per cent biomass in boilers, leading to demand for adaptative changes in the existing boiler and power plant equipment. With our deep knowledge of fuel and ash effects on the efficiency and life of boilers, we are able to offer a comprehensive ‘adaptive changes package’ in power plants to handle the energy transition.

The industries in India, especially those in need of captive power, have started efforts to decarbonise their energy requirements. For every new power demand, the users are evaluating available renewable solutions. The industry is asking manufacturers to develop multi-input energy hybrid systems to maximise renewables. Users are looking at multi-fuel options like biofuels, agriculture waste, non-recyclable solid waste, refuse-derived fuel to have higher input flexibility while maintaining economic viability. We have seen some of our customers favouring available agriculture stock and biofuels around their plant areas to combust it in the advanced boiler systems with integrated gas cleaning systems. This agro-energy demand has given a thrust to newer technology that can accommodate multi-hybrid fuel options in a single unit, offering maximum flexibility.

Waste to energy plants are gaining its momentum back due to fewer options for tackling waste management challenges and continuous focus towards sustainability. The developers have understood that a successful plant will need an indigenised solution that can customise the best available technology to meet local requirements. Waste heat recovery and co-generation remain popular options.

What is your assessment of the Union Budget 2022-23 for the power sector? Has the budget adequately addressed the industry’s concerns?

In the recent Union Budget, the large power plants have been asked to use 5-7 per cent of renewables, biofuels or agricultural waste to replace coal and thereby support decarbonisation. The budget has certainly empowered the policies and framework for meeting our country’s ambition towards net-zero.

Furthermore, the finance minister has announced the issue of sovereign green bonds to mobilise funds to set up green infrastructure projects in the public sector and reduce carbon footprint. These funds will enable the government to achieve the 500 GW renewable energy target by 2030. The Fiance Ministry has also announced other measures to boost energy transition through electric vehicles  and solar and green energy, including battery swapping, Rs 195 billion for production linked incentive for high-efficiency modules, etc. All these measures will give an impetus to new investments in the power sector.

What have been the operational and financial highlights of your business in the last one-two years?

Our office infrastructure has evolved and we are now able to work in a hybrid work model (home and office) efficiently. This minimises contact while still maintaining high productivity.

Our manufacturing has also taken various initiatives to ensure continuity of production. These include creating a secured bio-bubble within our factory, creating a micro-zone within the shop floor and using processes that are less dependent on oxygen gas. At present, we have stabilised operations, and our capacity utilisation is better.We are well in a position to reach the pre-Covid levels of activity.

 

What are the biggest issues and challenges facing the business, and how are these being addressed?

The continuous upward trend in commodity prices has been a major challenge, and it is directly impacting the bottom line of many organisations. We have been focussing on controlling costs at the organisation level and will have to continue our efforts in that direction.

 

Please share your thoughts on the future plans for the business? What are your top priorities?

We are committed to our promise of ‘Conserving Resources, Preserving the Future’. Our focus will be on developing and deploying new-age technologies that can meet user demands of achieving net-zero and decarbonisation targets. We are making investments either in research & development or partnerships in cutting-edge technologies for waste to energy, agro-based hybrid multi-fuel combustion, newer waste heat recovery applications and electric boilers.

 

What are the market opportunities that you foresee in the power equipment industry in the next 1-2 years? 

We are looking for opportunities in green renewable power, especially from solar, non-recyclable waste, biofuels and municipal solid waste.

 

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