2014 proved to be an exceptionally good year for Clarke Energy as it secured the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, was named Business of the Year for the Liverpool City Region and won the REA Award for Innovation. After such a successful 12 months the Liverpool-based company has been keen to not rest on its laurels as it continues to strive for further growth both at home and abroad.
“First and foremost, last year’s award recognition is testament to the hard work of all the staff,” explains Alex Marshall, Group Marketing and Compliance Manager. “It’s the people in the business that make it a success and on the whole we’ve got a happy workforce where people enjoy working for the company. For the last three years we’ve paid inflation-beating levels of bonuses, which has been a major motivator for the staff in the face of a difficult economic climate. With such a settled team of people we’ve been able to capitalise on our stability to keep driving the business forward.”
A multinational specialist in low carbon and renewable distributed power generation technology, Clarke Energy can either supply single gas engines or multi-engine power plants under a turnkey basis. Present in 17 countries with over 1,000 employees currently supporting its operations, it is the largest distributor service provider for GE’s reciprocating engines business.
In terms of the areas Clarke Energy has been focusing on recently, the diversity of knowledge and expertise within the business has seen it tackling a wide range of different projects depending on the country it has been operating in. “In the UK we are market leader in the biogas power sector, whether that’s generated from waste or agriculture, so we’re deploying generators that operate on the gas from those processes,” says Mr Marshall. “We are also a market leader in the field of combined heat and power, so we deploy high efficiency power generators from gas, utilising the heat and the electricity from the combustion process. This is deployed in a variety of different applications including the NHS where we’ve just supplied our 50th megawatt.
“With the NHS we’ve supplied a number of different hospitals including The Christie in Manchester, Broadgreen in Liverpool, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, and a variety of others. St Barts is one of the newest, for which we are currently installing a generator.
“In the UK we are market leader in the biogas power sector, whether that’s generated from waste or agriculture, so we’re deploying generators that operate on the gas from those processes. We are also a market leader in the field of combined heat and power, so we deploy high efficiency power generators from gas, utilising the heat and the electricity from the combustion process. This is deployed in a variety of different applications including the NHS where we’ve just supplied our 50th megawatt.”
Alex Marshall, Group Marketing and Compliance Manager
“We also supply the further education sector, including universities such as Liverpool and Glasgow Caledonian, deploying our technology to reduce carbon emissions and costs. We’re also seeing attractive growth in the industrial sector, particularly within buildings that utilise electricity and heat where companies want to offset that with their own power plant to ensure power generator stability while also reducing carbon and costs. This can be achieved via a variety of different methods and applications depending on who it is we’re dealing with.”
The growth that Clarke Energy has been seeing has not only been limited to the UK market having seen significant expansion globally too. “In the African context we primarily supply national gas-fuelled equipment where the electricity grid is relatively unstable, particularly in countries such as Nigeria. We therefore supply factories with power generation equipment because they can’t rely on the local grid. Historically they’ve used diesel, which is a very expensive form of fuel, so switching to gas has provided significant cost savings, allowing the companies to pay off the capital for the generator within 18 months of installation.
“In South Africa we are operating in the furnace gas sector with large industrial facilities dealing with metal ores. Typically during the process of refining the ores the gas in the furnace produces a difficult by-product: a combination of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and possibly methane, depending on the process. We can use that gas, which previously had been flared, for onsite power generations and co-generation configuration. We’ve also recently sold and deployed to the first biogas plants in sub-Saharan Africa. There’s one in Kenya near Lake Naivasha that is exporting flowers to Europe for harvest and they’re using the waste from the facility to generate biogas and hence renewable power.
“Even further afield, Australia is primarily the biggest market for us with the growing opportunities in the coal seam gas and waste coal mine gas industries. The gas associated with coal deposits as they’re being mined needs to be removed in order to prevent emissions and improve worker safety. The coal seam gas that is extracted for exportation to south-east Asia and abroad is typically located in remote areas with the extraction process requiring onsite power generations. They are generally some distance from the national grid so we’ve supplied a range of different projects over the last year including three major power stations.”
The key to Clarke Energy’s success has not been purely about its expertise in a wide range of different applications but also the quality of the long-term support it can provide, as Mr Marshall outlines: “We’re not focused on just selling an engine and then leaving. With the types of application we’re dealing with you need to look fully at integration with customer facilities and the wider balance of plant. This is not just backed up by the installation; we seed offices with local service engineers to train up a large service pool. This really reflects our strongly ingrained emphasis on aftersales customer service, which is supported by the robust supply chain we have built and the superb relationships we have with manufacturers.
“Our commitment to investment has underpinned the business over the years. We’ve got a long-standing commitment to continual investment in the company rather than taking money out of the business. The head count has increased by roughly 100 people per year for the last three years and we have significant development programmes in-house, which include apprenticeships at the basic service level. Some of those apprentices have gone on to become engineers and with others being promoted to the product management team. We also have personal development programmes, such as graduate training schemes for the UK and Nigeria, and internal personal development programmes for all members of staff.”
The tremendous infrastructure Clarke Energy can draw upon has enabled it to build an impressive client base. “We’ve recently been announced as GE’s new official partner for their engine range, firstly in Nigeria and now in India and Australia,” concludes Mr Marshall. “For the next 12 months the main objective is to continue growing into new countries. There’s some interesting announcements to come out in the near future and we are expanding our operations further in Africa and in Bangladesh.”