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Energy

Published on: Dec. 13, 2021, 10:58 p.m.
Steam House goes full steam ahead
  • Budhia: industries get steam at their doorsteps

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

“In line with Glasgow COP26, they have targeted reduction of fossil fuel by various means like increasing thermal efficiency, selection of the right fuel (coal), adding agro-waste, adding municipal solid waste – refuse-derived fuel (MSW RDF), industrial RDF, and waste gases to steam. We are doing that,” explains Vishal Budhia, a second-generation entrepreneur based in Surat, Gujarat, MD, Steam House India Ltd. In 2015 during one of his visits to South Korea Budhia was introduced to the concept and technology behind the community boiler. His family business is textile processing.

A unique concept was started by him when he visualised green hydrogen as an important fuel in the future and he is investing in tree plantations to get carbon neutral. “I felt that India definitely needs such solutions, especially in the industrial clusters where steam is required for product manufacturing. Currently, every plant has its own boiler that takes up space, requires adhering to industrial compliance and manpower. We are addressing all these issues with this concept where we supply steam to industrial clusters in Gujarat through our 30 and 60-tonne plants costing Rs20 crore and Rs30 crore respectively, via Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) led technology via overhead pipes,” says Budhia who uses the technology that follows the steam consumption pattern of each plant and adapts and creates a customised plan. “This helps in increasing productivity, reducing capex, enhancing capacity and delivering a higher profit.”

Steam is an inevitable requirement for most manufacturing industries like textiles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, plywood, paper, etc, to meet their heat requirements in chemical reactions and so on. Steam is also used for effluent treatment or for evaporating industrial waste. This waste cannot be treated, as the liquid is evaporated and salts get collected, which in turn dissociates the water and chemicals into untreatable liquid wastes even for finishing garments by garment manufactures.

For years, industries have been setting up their own boilers at their premises to meet their steam requirements. “These boilers are small to medium in size, have low efficiency; the operations are usually not taken care of by professionals, and at times safety is compromised, which results in casualties. Another major hazard is the increasing level of industrial air pollution. The chimneys in industrial areas that emit black smoke add to PM-5 and PM-10 of the environment, causing diseases from asthma to cancer as a result of improper air pollution control equipment and non-professional management,” adds Budhia.

Plug and play

So, what has Steam House done? They have set up a concept called common boilers in various industrial areas in Gujarat where the steam demand is high. These are large, high pressure, high-efficiency boilers with highly efficient air pollution control equipment. These large boilers generate quality steam at a lower cost under the supervision of experienced professionals. This steam is then distributed to industries in local areas by an overhead pipeline network spread across 22 km.

“The industries get steam at their doorsteps as a plug and play solution with their own billing meter installed at the premises,” points out Budhia who has a virtual monopoly in the business and runs common, large AI integrated steam boilers. These AFBC (Atmospheric Fluidised Bed Combustion) boilers with emissions control technology have 83 per cent efficiency as compared to the small boilers industries generally use which only have 65 per cent efficiency. Industries save up to 40 per cent precious fossil fuel by using the bigger boilers.

  • With a robust pollution control system, Steam House reduces the mass of emissions by 50-70 per cent

With a robust pollution control system, Steam House reduces the mass of emissions by 50-70 per cent, replacing fuel combustion for many small boilers with efficient fuel usage from one common boiler that helps in keeping SOx and NOx levels well below the norms prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board.

It so happened that Steam House’s first common boiler project was set up in Surat – Sachin GIDC, around six years back and is servicing around 55 industries. Then it moved on to add Vapi GIDC (South Gujarat), Ankleshwar GIDC, and 30 more industries, with more projects coming up in at least four more GIDCs in Gujarat in the near future.

Preferred choice

Small industrial units that are switching over to common boiler-based steam generation witness a reduction in the production cost of up to 25-30 per cent. Common boilers of larger capacity are not required to be under frequent maintenance, hence there are no operational or maintenance hassles as there are no boilers installed – no more setting aside of separate manpower for the operation of boilers and no fuel storage area required.

Owing to the better quality of steam, there is an enhanced product quality that yields to higher production at an increased rate of 12 per cent that makes new product opportunity and expansion possible with zero downtime. As steam in bulk reduces the per-unit fuel consumption, there is improved fuel-to-energy conversion, increased efficiency, and minimised shutdowns.

“By outsourcing our steam requirement to Steam House, the hazardous and safety elements involved in owning in-house steam plants were taken away and we were left with a lot of free areas that were ultimately put to productive use,” says Naresh Bhai of Ami Organics

 “We saw a reduction in costs and increased productivity after we opted for emission-free steam generation. We are no longer troubled about the maintenance of boilers or the quality of steam produced, as we are now in good hands,” observes Rohan Desai of Aether Industries Limited.

Financially speaking, in the last three years, Steam House has grown at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 75 per cent. In FY18, it notched up a turnover of Rs24 crore and made a loss of Rs1.5 crore, while the top line for 2019 and 2020 increased to Rs67 crore and Rs99 crore and the net profit to Rs0.50 crore and Rs5.6 crore respectively. “So far Steam House has invested Rs150 crore and has lined up another Rs130 crore to be invested in the next 12-15 months,” adds Budhia.

Meanwhile, the government of Gujarat has been proactive in supporting this as an environmental project and has announced a subsidy in the industrial policy 2015 and 2020 for setting up community boilers while the Gujarat Pollution Control Board awarded Steam House the ‘Innovative projects in Environment field’ for its concept of community boilers. It is now being suggested that various industrial areas in Gujarat implement a common boiler concept and many of them have already committed to doing so, and have informed the National Green Tribunal of India of this.

  • Steam House uses AI and ML to control, modulate, and moderate steam distribution with zero human interventions

“Post the wider acceptance and overwhelming response of the Steam House concept in Gujarat, we are going national. We will be spreading our footprint in Maharashtra, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, etc, very shortly. We wish to bring about a revolution in the industrial utility business with more products shortly. An estimated investment of over Rs2,500 crore is envisaged for which we are talking to private equity (PE) players who have a keen interest in our tech-led model,” adds Budhia who uses AI and ML to control, modulate, and moderate steam distribution with zero human interventions.

It uses AI and IoT technologies that check the consumption pattern and supply according to each industry’s need, with reduced wastage and zero discrepancies. AI provides industries with the accurate amount of steam they need and allows them to pay the exact amount of money for the quantity of steam they use. “We started with selling steam, but in reality, we are selling technology; it's not simply steam at 190 degrees centigrade,” adds Budhia.

Other states have taken a similar stand. The governments of Rajasthan and Haryana conducted seminars to impress their industries to adopt a similar idea. The Maharashtra government allotted land for a similar project in the Tarapur MIDC on a fast-track basis, while CSE – Centre for Science & Environment, New Delhi, also issued a white paper suggesting how important it was for industrial areas of Delhi NCR to shift to common boilers to reduce the problem of haze in Delhi NCR.

So far, the company has the advantage of now importing coal directly from mine owners in Indonesia and this not only helps in getting the most efficient and low sulphur coal, but also removes all the intermediate cost additions, bringing down the cost. “However, looking at the coal shortage, we are looking at buying mines in Indonesia and India,” sums up Budhia.

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