Abhay Patil, Director, Thyssenkrupp India in an exclusive chat with BWU, on emerging trends in global boiler industry

1. What is your outlook about the current boiler market across the globe?

We are optimistic about the growth in boiler market across the globe especially in the Asia Pacific region. Particularly in the last two years there was not much CapEx due to Covid-19 & thus I foresee a large CapEx cycle coming up. Every CapEx cycle always sees a rise in demand for boiler and ancillary industries.

2. Over the last 10 years how do you think the boiler market has seen a technological shift?

Yes, there is a major shift to greener & cleaner technology. The rising emphasis to control carbon emissions is driving the demand for renewable fuels. It has lead to technological advancement & shift in boiler technology to adapt to the shift in fuel usage paradigm for energy generation.

We have also invested in technological development in our ‘clean coal’ technology CFBC Boilers, to make them efficient and suitable for firing biomass fuels. We have collaborated with Babcock & Wilcox, Volund by means of licensing agreement to bring the most advanced technology for high capacity & high-pressure critical biomass boilers to India.

Rapid urbanization has created issues with waste disposal in major cities across the world. Boiler technology has evolved to solve this issue by incineration route and generating energy from waste. We at Thyssenkrupp focus on providing “Waste to Energy” solutions with our state of MSW/RDF fired boilers and contribute for the sustainable development in India.

3. Covid has definitely slowed down the industry, how long do you think will it take to get back on track?

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the power boiler market with very few investments in new coal fired boiler based power plants. At the same time, we see lot of spending by government on large infra projects, which has created a strong demand for cement, steel etc. This growth in demand reflects on the boiler industry too. I see a strong recovery in 12 months that will bring the industry back to 2019 levels.

4. It is anticipated that global boiler installations will exceed 13M by 2024, this burgeoning market demand, in your opinion, is it capable to cause a geographical shift in terms of dominance over sector?

There will be growth in market demand for boilers, especially the industrial segment. I foresee a challenge for IPP Power Boilers going forward, considering the solar & wind energy giga-size installations. Thus, growth will be more in Industrial/captive segment

5. How do you think, governmental measures along with the participation of various financial institutions will stimulate the industrial boiler market growth over the forecast timeframe for the expansion of key economic sectors?

Government policies and active participation from NBFC’s are key drivers for growth in any sector. Power/energy is back bone of any industry; infrastructure development being priority sector for government, we see that in next couple of years there will be good demand for waste heat recovery and clean coal technology boilers, from the cement and steel sector. I think we need clearer framework from the government on municipal waste incineration based power plants, agricultural waste based boilers/power plant etc. I am sure that the government will frame newer policies to trigger better investments here.

6. What are these growth drivers?

Rapid urbanization and industrialization coupled with government push for environment friendly technologies to meet power & steam demand are the key growth drivers for boiler business in India. For example, with government focus on pharma self-reliance, this sector seems to be poised for bigger jumps.

7. What are the pitfalls and challenges?

Although the government looks to push for biomass boilers & green tech, there are multiple challenges with on-ground implementation. Due to the viability gap funding new projects especially in the ‘waste to energy & critical biomass to power’ sector are still not commercially feasible.

Also, challenges exist in continuous availability of alternate fuels like biomass, as aggregation & supply chain factors are unaddressed, yet.

8. How will the rising industrial sector investments along with the growing replacement of conventional heating systems with energy-efficient boilers have a significant impact on the industrial boiler industry demand?

New Investments will be focused towards improving contribution of green energy. This will lead to investments in energy efficiency improvement projects that will drive demand for waste heat recovery boilers & CFBC boilers.

9. What are the ongoing efforts undertaken by industries to curb the emission driven by stringent regulatory mandates?

 Initially, conformance to the stringent emission norms were looked at as being very expensive in the production and cap-ex cycle, but with the availability of technology in India, all industries are comfortable to meet these norms. Some industries are ready to invest in pollution control equipment during the initial Capex, so they are prepared to face stringent emission norms in future. 

10. How much do you think refineries contribute in the expansion of market demand?

Refinery requirement for boilers is dependent on government expansion plans & global crude prices. We expect steady growth in demand for heat recovery steam generators, waste heat recovery boilers and auxiliary boilers in this sector. It will be interesting to see private players in this sector encompassing ’green’ norms and it’s reflection on the industry.

11. Does the processed food industry propel the industrial boiler market outlook?

Demand for small process boilers will be surely propelled by the processed food industry.

12. How much do you think will the Asia Pacific region take over the regional market share between 2020-2040?

Both India and China will lead the development in APAC region and have lucrative opportunities especially in waste to energy and biomass to energy segments. Between 2020 – 2040, APAC region is expected to dominate the boiler market with market share of about 55% of the Global Boiler Market.

13. Since you have seen the global boiler scenario, what according to you is the one thing Indian manufacturers can adopt to increase their global footprint?

Quality consciousness and renewed focus on manufacturing excellence are necessary to achieve global eminence. Also export incentive & ease of doing export business policies will help Indian Boiler manufacturers increase their global footprint.

14. Which recent major collaborations and acquisitions can be viewed as the focal point to drive market share?

We are banking on our collaboration with Babcock & Wilcox, Volund for advanced technology of critical biomass boilers to be the game changer for Indian Boiler Market. It will cater to the power/process steam demand of various industries in an environment friendly way.

15. Boiler is a core industry, do you think the current trade regulations and policies need amendments?

Yes, current policies need amendments to bring more clarity about the incentives and preferences for the green & clean coal boiler technologies.

16. A boiler explosion is a catastrophic failure of a boiler, what in your opinion is majorly responsible- failure of pressure parts or fuel/air explosion?

Non-adherance to OEM guidelines and SOP’s for boiler operation is the main cause. Also I expect better automation, so such accidents can be avoided. Unfortunately, there is no specific regulation under IBR/other Boiler code about minimum automation. I think time has come to amend the IBR to introduce minimum ‘Safety automation’.

17. What are the novel technologies the boiler industry should be updated about?

Ample automation is now available and the user industry may choose. New boilers can be designed to sustain future fuel shifts to hydrogen, agro-waste etc. since they are designed keeping in mind a 25 yr life cycle.

18. In recent trend to encourage use of non-conventional energy sources, what is your opinion about its role in Boiler Industry?

Total energy demand at about 14-15 CAGR will have conventional energy dominance however, solar and wind energy are definitely looking at increasing the market share substantially. In my opinion there are no non-conventional alternatives that are reliable and cost effective.

19. What steps do you think should be taken to increase the use of non-conventional gas?

Increased participation from private players to ensure introduction of contemporary technology to suit Indian conditions and also mitigate risk of investment are crucial to increase usage of non-conventional gases.

20. Lastly, how is the industry coping with Covid?

Well being of workforce & at the same time ensuring business continuity during the pandemic has posed a challenge for the manufacturing industry. Increased focus on digitalization and building resilience into the supply chain while building confidence in customers with respect to our plans to address the current challenges has helped sail through this difficult time.

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