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Iñigo Béjar: “We continue to generate new combustion technologies to reduce emissions and improve efficiency”
We speak to Iñigo Béjar, CEO of E&M Combustion, about climate change, generation of new combustion technologies and trends in reducing emissions and opening up to alternative fuels, including hydrogen, which in his opinion are called to be the element of transition towards renewable energy to combat climate change. “The strategic commitment of E&M Combustion will continue to be the dramatic reduction of NOx emissions, generating increasingly innovative equipment, providing technologies and systems aimed at improving efficiency and minimizing emissions,” he says.
Impac of the Covid-19
- The Covid-19 pandemic has caught us all by surprise. How has this impact affected the international situation regarding equipment demand and new projects?
The pandemic has produced widespread paralysis globally. It has been sweeping Europe, Latin America, the United States … has generated confinement in all countries. To date, we have wasted three months at best and projects are stalled. It seems that China is the only country in the global market that has been reactivated.
- In this general framework, what is E&M Combustion’s day-to-day like today? How has the pandemic affected the activity of the company and its workers?
We continue quite normally. During confinement we resorted to teleworking, except in the workshop, for obvious reasons. We continue normal activity to meet our manufacturing and delivery commitments, applying more exhaustive safety and hygiene measures: special disinfectant products, masks and safety distance. Currently we can say that we are practically in total normality.
Generation of Combustion Technologies
- Where are the new technological trends in combustion equipment going?
The challenge of recent years continues. The generation of new combustion technologies evolve towards a constant reduction of emissions. The regulations are increasingly restrictive, which leads us to increase the capacity to manufacture more environmentally friendly equipment. Another way of natural evolution is the opening to alternative fuels because it is clear that it is the future to come. A possible substitute will be hydrogen, which does not produce CO2 but does produce NOx, and this is where combustion equipment and systems specially designed to reduce nitrogen oxides come into play. Hydrogen can be a transition element, an intermediate step from traditional hydrocarbons, such as natural gas, to fully renewable energies, such as wind and solar. The challenge for the industry is to continue manufacturing less and less polluting equipment and also to use less polluting fuels.
- What role does R + D + i play in companies that generate new technologies, such as E&M Combustión?
R&D has a fundamental role. It allows to achieve efficiency objectives, through studies, designs, analysis and experimentation of equipment and the continuous improvement thereof, as well as the development of new equipment for emerging fuels.
- Is the pandemic a window of opportunity, as has been said for renewable energy, as a bet for greater efficiency and sustainability? Do you detect a movement in this regard?
The pandemic will create an economic crisis, but this decline in activity I do not see going to a new technology approach despite what is said. However, it is an urgent need for climate change. We have to go that way, because of the critical climate situation and the health problem. It will be the politicians who have to push that for the industry to move in that direction.
Reindustrialization and generation of new Combustion Technologies
- Many countries have detected product shortages or a lack of industrial supplies as a result of the pandemic. Do you think that until now many western economies have relaxed in supporting the industry?
The public administration had neglected industry because the service sector is simpler and provides quick results. In the industry, the maturing periods are long, of at least 10 or 15 years until they are consolidated. Society has followed that inertia of going towards the easy and it is precisely in these moments of crisis that it is appreciated. In R&D there is not enough support either.
- Is it then time to reindustrialize the economy to create employment and secure internal production capacity, to generate growth and social welfare, or are you in favor of production being carried out in those strategic and most competitive places?
The ideal is a combination of all the options in the sectors of activity, but reindustrialization must be carried out because productive activity preserves knowledge, creates wealth as it generates added value and jobs. In fact, the highest wages are in the industry. But obviously you cannot manufacture everything within a region or country. It would be necessary to combine internal and external productive activity to guarantee competitiveness.
- Climate change was one of the main challenges in society and in the industry before we focused on fighting Covid-19. What contribution can be made from engineering and equipment manufacturing to continue improving the environment?
At E&M Combustion we will continue in this direction of generaing dramatically reducing NOx emissions with increasingly innovative equipment and providing technologies and systems to minimize emissions and improve efficiency. We are not going to change our philosophy, we must take into account climate change: pollution generates health problems and represents expenses. To be “green” you have to minimize the impact and use of fuels, but it is a geostrategic change and we are aware that it is not easy.
Faced with this great challenge of climate change, in our company we are turning to two lines of work to achieve better yields: Flue Gas Recirculation (internal and external) and Steam Injection Technology. We implemented these two lines to develop and produce industrial burners with increasingly lower emissions.
But there has to be a political will. Governments have to decide the permitted levels of contamination through regulations and restrictions. For example, in China these levels are at a NOx emission limit of 30 mg / m3 for large companies and large population centers, while in Europe the limitation of facilities is 100 mg / m3. Therefore, it depends on more demanding regulations on the part of the Administrations that the process of stopping climate change goes faster. An example is that in China all motorcycles are electric by political decision.
- Events like the pandemic or the challenge of climate change change people’s perception of their daily tasks. What is the commitment of managers and companies today to contribute to making a lasting impact?
Decisions in companies are given by the application of regulations. Economic interests normally take precedence over ecological ones. It is precisely the regulations, balanced, that must be driving this technological development in balance with the environment, clearly adapting to the challenge of keeping companies “alive and well”. Profitability is sought within its regulatory framework.
Social responsibility and improvement of the framework
- How do the people who make up the E&M Combustion team help make this happen?
We have all seen dedicating work and effort to the development of the activity and to that everything progresses. Most feel that attitude is important and each has contributed what they could. The company, for its part, has provided a framework of time flexibility to adapt to the conciliation that, on the other hand, was already practiced.
- In any case, what else could the institutions do to improve the business framework?
A good measure would be to reduce all bureaucracy and maintain the unity of criteria in regulatory and fiscal matters, with greater simplification. Also simplify the framework, which is still appalling. Another positive measure would be to reduce the tax burden to improve the competitiveness of companies with respect to other European countries. Keep in mind the factor of tax burden versus wages. It would also be necessary to go towards simplifying the administrative management of companies, seeking a balance between security, time and company investment. In fact, there is a collection and payment regulation, which is sometimes violated by the Administration itself.
- Has the scope of training for qualified staff improved?
The latest training policies have been positive, with the integration of VET and practice in companies, the adaptation of young people to activities in industrial activity has been greatly facilitated and they are better technically trained. It is still necessary to make the leap to motivation because the youngest still have reluctance regarding the industry and it must be borne in mind that it takes many years on the job to really learn.
- Is the network of Basque metallurgy and energy providers still as efficient as it used to be?
The pandemic has somewhat affected outsourcing by ERTEs. It is not a critical situation, but it has affected. There have been more difficulties in response times to business inquiries, to give an example; and transports have malfunctioned in Covid’s time. On the other hand, it is increasingly difficult to find well-trained trade personnel with respect to other times.
- How do you see E&M Combustion in 10-15 years?
It’s hard to think long term with all this volatility. I believe that a company like ours has a future. Engineering related to combustion and the evolution of new fuels, new equipment … We have known how to adapt to new market conditions.
- From the perspective of E&M Combustion, which countries are standing out the most in investment projects to increase productive capacity and improve facilities?
India is a country that is standing out in new investments at the moment, both in increasing productive capacity and improving its facilities. It is clearly a country of the future, as is Southeast Asia. This last area, with 800 million inhabitants, will grow in the coming years and could become the world’s factory displacing China, because this country is going to focus on more technological areas.
- Does Internationalization continue to be a key to competitive improvement and stability?
Internationalization continues to be a very important value. For companies that are internationalized, it is no longer so important, but for companies that start in international markets, this is the best way to discover their needs for improvement, after leaving a comfortable, comfortable and close space. Rivalry makes competition tougher. It makes you improve and reflect and be more competitive.