Interview with Eric Blauenstein, Founder and President of Pentol
Eric Blauenstein, Founder and President of Pentol GmbH,
talking about past, present and future of power generation industry.
« Energy politics should be more rational and less emotional. »
Mr. Blauenstein, since you have started Pentol in 1969, you have been working constantly in the world of power plants. Can you tell us about the background of your decision to manufacture combustion additives for power plants
At the age of 23, I worked for a small chemical company in Switzerland. During my first visit to the United States, I was, by chance, introduced into the world of additives and was deeply impressed by the efficiency of magnesium based additive treatment in power plants. This was the key experience which led to the foundation of a company specialized in the sale of fuel treatments in Europe.
After 50 years of experience in the energy business, you have certainly experienced many ups and downs. What was your most impressive experience in all these years?
At the beginning, we had seven very hard years to prove our idea, our products and technology in a new market. Additives had a bad reputation at that time, as lots of companies tried to sell their “snake oil” on the European market. The real, definitive breakthrough of our work was in 1976 in a big power plant in Belgium. Our small startup company risked everything at that time, and we succeeded, making it to the news with a picture of an emission-free chimney.
Looking back on the development of power plants, many things changed in recent decades. Can you briefly summarize the key features of your service?
The world economic crisis often influenced the market: when the price of fuel oil has grown, the power plant operators changed their systems to other fuel types or technologies. This recurring changes formed our core competence in combustion optimization, and the prevention of corrosion. Now we can treat a wide range of situations with different fossil fuel types, e.g. coal, all kinds of fuel oil, waste and biomass.
Pentol has many specialists in power stations worldwide, working on the field of service and commissioning. What are they achieving exactly in this power plants?
Our main target is customer satisfaction. Our combustion engineers install the dosing equipment, the emission monitoring and assist our clients in defining better-operating parameters. The optimization of plant efficiency depends on numerous working parameters. Training of the operating staff is crucial for an optimal measure to work after the specialist left.
On the market, there are many products for fuel additives. Some focusing on environmental protection, others on the reduction of corrosion effects. What, according to your practical experience, is more important to your customers?
In general, you hardly find people who are willing to spend on environmental protection without the pressure from the lawmakers. If the lawmaker requires a plant to reduce emission, we help our client to reduce the emission. But our products can do both. Solving corrosion issues can be combined with lower exit gas temperatures and therefore with an increase in efficiency. On the contrary, we can increase efficiency by improved combustion and at the same time neutralize SO3, reducing the visible plume and eliminating acid smut fallout.
Talking about the image of fossil fuel energy versus the image of renewable energy: when I google for a symbol representing environmental protection, I find a tree, a butterfly and a wind turbine. Will the hype for alternative energy influence your business or the business of your customers?
I wouldn’t call alternative energy a hype. When you go skiing, you will find that the glaciers we skied in 20 years ago are simply not there anymore. We need to react and do this quickly. On the other hand, fuel for cars, planes, and ships will still be needed for a long time, so heavy fuel oil as a waste product from the refining process will be available as well. Pentol is busy extending our scope of supply to biomass and waste incinerators. Using our knowledge in this field opens new possibilities for us, while excelling on the remaining fossil fuel fired plants.
Does the promotion of renewable energies have an impact on your business in Europe and especially in Germany?
As a manufacturer, we feel the price for electricity rising continuously. As a supplier, we see valued clients closing their fossil fuel fired plants all over Europe, while new plants are built in the Middle East and Asia at the same rate. As humans, we sometimes wonder if this makes any sense!
Thank you very much. As final words: what wishes do you have for the future of power industry?