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Pandemic drives demand for more efficient steam technology in 2021

The ability to adapt and recover sustainably and productively will drive business’s demand for more efficient steam technology in 2021. That is the headline finding from Aggreko’s latest industry research, which surveyed over 200 organisations across the public and private sector.

The research, which was commissioned in part to determine how the global pandemic has reshaped business priorities, looked to establish how different factors are influencing uptake in the steam boiler market. Those interviewed included energy and production managers in manufacturing and petrochemical refineries, as well as facilities managers in hospitals and government departments.

After the disruption that took place in 2020, it would be fair to assume most businesses are reluctant to ear-mark budget for upgrades. Yet 68% of respondents said they were now more likely to invest in greener technology or new equipment to improve energy efficiency and emissions since the emergence of COVID-19. However, a number of businesses found the extra expense difficult to justify as the economic impact of the virus becomes clear. Just under 20% said they were now less likely to invest in new technology, with business uncertainty being the determining factor.

Other results only further highlight the desire for businesses to invest, not just as a means to navigate adverse market conditions but also to keep pace with rival organisations. Some 63% of the sample identified ‘competitiveness’ as the main reason why they would now spend money on a new steam boiler, with rising energy bills and strain on current assets also scoring high at 53% and 52% respectively.

While these results give cause for optimism in 2021, there are still a number of issues that may impede business’s recovery. An overwhelming majority said it had become harder to find people with the necessary skills to operate and fix steam boilers since the pandemic. In addition to the skills gap, over half identified an increase in maintenance costs as another key issue. These problems appear to explain why almost 85% said they would now consider hiring equipment as a way to bridge a gap in demand and minimise the threat of an existing boiler breaking down.

These findings come as Aggreko is set to launch some new steam boilers into its European fleet. The two and five tonne models have a number of benefits, including rapid steam production from cold start, higher energy efficiency ratings and low carbon emissions. The company believes it will not only help meet a surge in demand across various end-user industries, such as power generation and chemical processing, but also help to navigate uncertainties following COVID-19 and the UK’s departure from EU in January.

Graeme Cunningham has been appointed by Aggreko as Sector Development Manager to grow the company’s share of the steam boiler market. He said: “It’s encouraging to see businesses willing to invest despite the difficulties experienced throughout 2020. Steam boilers form a central part of many different production processes, so it was important for Aggreko to gauge how conditions have changed and what will drive uptake of more efficient equipment in the years ahead. There are clearly concerns, particularly around supply of skilled labour and a heavier demand on existing assets, so it’s vital there are options available to mitigate these issues. We believe our two new models will bridge gaps in demand and help to stimulate economic recovery in 2021.”

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