V Gokul Das, Chairman and Managing Director, HRS Process Systems

Energy Efficiency in Thermal Processing – Under the visionary leadership of V Gokul Das, Chairman and Managing Director, HRS Process Systems has grown tremendously and gained recognition as the leading heat transfer technology provider for the chemical processing industry. In an exclusive interaction with Chemical Engineering World, he shares the learnings from the last year, innovative technologies the company has to offer, and how the company is getting future-ready with the changing industry trends.

What were the biggest challenges for HRS Process Systems in the last year that you had to address and the biggest learnings as an organization? How do you see this year from a growth perspective?

Our country and the world we’re witnessing a pandemic of this magnitude for the first time which needed preparation for a war footing. The challenges were many and varied, each country and company rose to the challenge and created its own plan to tackle the pandemic. Lockdown across the globe was a necessity not only to contain the virus spread but also to give time to prepare for a remedy. Our biggest challenge was to maintain supply and service support to the key sectors that were necessary for the fight against the pandemic – our huge Customer base in the Pharmaceutical, Chemical, and Food processing sector i.e. essential category. They worked to ensure we have the necessary medication to fight the pandemic and also foodstuff to sustain.

At HRS, we were able to quickly start back with proper care and precautions as defined by the Government from time to time and support our customers without disrupting the supply chain. This also helped our vendors and suppliers to sustain their business. Our initiative helped us sustain our business and also post a small growth in a very challenging year.

The year has been full of learning for organisations and individuals. We have learned the importance of the first-time-right approach, which has helped us immensely. We also realized that all our processes need to be evaluated to stand up to such challenges ever in the future. As an organization, we opened up an informal communication line with our employees to connect, share and keep the team motivated during the lockdown and on-start back. We realized the power of teams and the value of shared learning. Looking back, we feel proud that as a company we rose to the occasion and were able to help fight the pandemic by enabling our Customers.

How do you see this year from a growth perspective?

The year 2020 was full of challenges for each and every business, and we were no exception. Our product mix enables us to work across multiple sectors- chemical and agrochemical processing, pharmaceuticals, petrochemical, fertilizer, cement, steel, power, edible oil, snack food, fruit and beverages processing, dairy, nutraceuticals, prepared food, etc. We were among the few fortunate to sustain and grow the business. Looking forward to 2021 and beyond is very promising. Although currently, we are facing the second surge, with vaccination roll-out, better medication and health care, and responsible citizens, we should be able to contain and overcome the pandemic. The economy will witness a dip in the first quarter, however, during the later part of the financial year, it will bounce back and we can witness decent growth.

What are the biggest challenges in thermal processing and how does your organization help the customers address these?

The key challenge in thermal processing is to ensure efficient processing with low energy consumption. Additionally, in some sectors like food, there is also a need to ensure product consistency, flavour, aroma, and taste. Thus the challenges vary from industry to industry and from application to application. In the chemical process segments, the need is for better conversion, thermal efficiency, low process losses, better yield, long operating times (between maintenance), low fouling, flexibility in operations, and low cost. Material compatibility for an application and equipment life cycle, are additional aspects that need attention.

HRS has been working in the thermal processing segment sector globally for over three decades now. We have assimilated good technical know-how and knowledge of various types of heat exchangers and their applications. We offer a range of thermal processing products which includes Ecoflux corrugated tube heat exchangers, smooth tube heat exchangers, plate-type heat exchangers, and scraped surface heat exchangers (rotary and reciprocating). Shell and tube heat exchangers are widely used in the industry; with our corrugated tube technology, we have been able to address all the industry challenges effectively. Our Ecoflux range of heat exchangers are compact in size, have higher thermal efficiency, are low fouling in nature, and are available in a variety of materials like stainless steel 304 / 316/ L, 904L, duplex, super duplex, Inconel, Monel, Hastelloy C276, C22, C2000, copper alloys, titanium, and tantalum.

We have a proprietary thermal design program to design a suitable heat exchanger for our customer’s requirements. We offer heat exchangers to various mechanical design codes, including ASME ‘U’ stamp units. We have the key types of heat exchangers and thus depending on the application, process fluids, and thermal duty; we can suggest to customers the best-suited heat exchanger for their application. With over 25,000 installation references in India and over 100,000 references globally, Ecoflux has become a brand of its own and HRS a highly valued heat exchanger company. 

Please share insights into the evolving trends in thermal processing and the factors that are driving the change.

Thermal processing has seen developments in products based on application and cost of ownership. The driving force for change has been the process challenges. Our corrugated tube heat exchanger is an appropriate example. We developed Ecoflux* to ensure low fouling inside the tube which not only improves the thermal characteristic but also reduces fouling. This ensures longer running times (between maintenance cycles) and thus is of immense advantage to our customers. Another product developed was the Unicus Scrapped Surface heat exchanger for food and pharma applications. Here we have heat-sensitive products, highly viscous products, which need gentle handling during thermal processing. Unicusensures uniform thermal processing without any fouling or product burnout. This heat exchanger can also be used for fluids with particulates too.

The globally thermal processing sector is evolving to look at compact heat exchangers that can take high thermal duty at low cost. There is a lot of work being done on the material used for the manufacture of the heat exchanger. The material needs to be compatible with the processed fluid and resistant to corrosion, thereby leading to the long-running time and life cycle of the equipment. There are many heat transfer equipment being tried for various applications however they are a combination of tubular, plate, and fins, depending on process fluid, thermal requirement, and fouling tendency. Shell and Tube heat exchanger remains the industry workhorse and new designs or types are available for critical process applications. 

How focused is the group on R&D? What kind of budgets have you allocated towards R&D, Team size & expertise? How has this helped the group stay ahead in the competition?

HRS has always been focused on R&D and our products have been developed at our R&D Center in Murcia, Spain.  As a group, we allocate about 5% of the revenue in various R&D activities which include pilot plants and test units and in some cases full-scale plants along with the customer. We have a dedicated team to look after the R&D. Each company has a local team that interacts with the customer and understands the problem faced and the solution anticipated. The details are fed to the main R&D centre, in Spain. These are then evaluated and depending on the need trials are conducted to understand the applications and the solutions engineered. Our products like the Unicus®, the Piston pumps, and the Rotex have all been developed in the R&D Center, from such customer requirement feedback. We have also made inroads into food waste conversion to energy which includes – food waste pasteurization, anaerobic digestion, effluent concentration, energy generation, and utilization. We have also installed plants for these processes in Europe and US markets and now aggressively pursuing them in the Indian market.

Please share insights into the latest innovative technologies developed by HRS Process Systems for industrial applications.

The chemical and Pharma sectors have always looked at compact heat exchangers for various applications. For the chemical process sector, we have developed Ecoflux* Corrugated Tube Heat Exchanger in the various metal of construction like stainless steel 304 / 316/ L, 904L, duplex, super duplex, Inconel, Monel, Hastelloy C276, C22, C2000, copper alloys, titanium, and tantalum.

Further in the Pharma sector, we have developed special compact condensers for reducing solvent losses in various storage tanks. We have developed special box-type condensers to satisfy compact heat exchanger requirements for the Pharma sector. These are manufactured in exotic materials like Hastelloy, higher nickel alloys. We have also developed a special corrugated tube heat exchanger for the fertilizer industry for the carbon dioxide compression station which has not only helped in enhancing capacity but also reduced power consumption. Recently we have launched special heat exchangers for handling municipal sludge and waste. We have expertise in the thermal processing of these to enable further treatment mandated by various municipal corporations now in India.

How is the group leveraging Make in India, and what kind of support do the capital equipment manufacturers need for India to evolve as a global hub?

HRS has always believed in Make in India with a global market vision.  We started with our manufacturing facility in India in 2003 and thus we have been able to build an HRS brand in the Indian market and globally. We are the global sourcing centre for our group companies and have supplied heat exchanges to customers in South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, our neighbours Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Africa (Uganda & Zambia) South America, the US, and Europe. The capital equipment manufacturers in India need infrastructural support, to be able to manufacture and ship overseas. Also, the industry needs good technology and engineering support to evolve as a global hub. We need to understand the different segments in terms of capacity and size of the equipment and create clusters of similar sizes to have economic viability.  We also need to brand our product and services as a competitive solution to the global market.

What kind of opportunities do you see for HRS Products in domestic & international markets in the foreseeable future?

We see promising opportunities for HRS products in the domestic, as well as international markets. We all are aware of the growth of the Pharma sector that is enabling growth in the chemical and fine chemicals sectors. Growth in the agriculture sector, the fertilizer requirement is increasing. However, the industry needs to revamp with better thermal processing equipment to reduce overall costs and improve productivity and profitability. With the infrastructural thrust, key sectors like steel, cement, and power, will also witness steady growth. The food industry has seen dramatic changes in the last decade with healthy food, beverages, juices, and convenience ready-to-eat food becoming very popular. This segment is looking at good growth potential in the coming years. HRS with its vast experience, domestic and global references, products, application engineering, and technical know-how, is looking forward to enhanced growth opportunities.

Tell us about the investments and future plans of HRS Process Systems

HRS plans to invest in expanding our global reach. We are looking to target the primary sector like oil and gas, petrochemical, etc. which has not been much of our focus. We are in the process of evaluating suitable thermal processing technology and products for this sector to be able to provide some niche services. In India, we planned to expand our manufacturing facility and also expand the technology set-up to support more business. We are preparing for the necessary investment in infrastructure and resources including human resources to be able to start good growth in the coming years.

Magazine: Chemical Engineering World
Publication: Jasubhai Media
Month: April 2021
Issue: Focusing on “Heat Exchanger, Boilers and Energy Efficiency”
Link: https://jasubhaimedia.com/cew/2021/april-2021/