High voltage boilers were first used commercially around 1914. In the 1920’s Sweden became one of the early adopters of these, a natural development following the introduction of steam turbines and the AC network. At that time, high voltage boilers were developed for the same reasons that mean they are rapidly increasing in use today: for balancing the electrical grid – in Sweden at the time primarily hydropower – and for utilizing excess valley period electricity within the process industry.
The oil crisis of the mid 1970´s and the introduction of nuclear power led to an increased use of high voltage boilers during the 1980´s in Scandinavia. S-Man, a company started in 1954 and well-known for introducing thermal oil as a heating medium within Scandinavian marine markets at the end of the 1960´s, became one of the market leaders. The company was partially owned by the Björk family and focused on oil fired exhaust gas boilers, marine heating systems for cargo and bunker heating and industrial applications.
High voltage hot water and steam boilers were increasingly used in hospitals, breweries, dairy production, laundries, paper mills and for district heating etc. Falling oil prices and the fact that Scandinavia connected its electrical grids with Europe led to declining sales by the mid-1980´s as market demands were temporarily fulfilled. The immersion type of high quality, high voltage steam boilers delivered by S-Man during the early 1980´s are still in service today. In 1987, Staffan and Mårten Björk became shareholders in S-Man.
1990-2000: Brothers in Cooperation
In 1993, Mr Leif Kring and Mr Lars Kring, who had previously worked for an electrical boiler company that was a competitor to S-Man, started the company Elpanneteknik. The company focused on the sale and maintenance of high and low voltage boilers and was awarded several important orders from the mining, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries as well as from power plants. For example, Astra Zeneca placed an important order for a 25MW high voltage steam boiler for pharmaceutical use.
Meanwhile at S-Man, Mårten Björk replaced his father as CEO of the company in 1996. The company focused its efforts on international markets to make up for the downturn in Scandinavian shipbuilding. Staffan Björk, active in the company from 1988 until 1995, returned and subsequently took on the role of CFO.
S-Man developed from being a local supplier in Northern Europe to becoming a leading international company within its selected segments, continuing its sales and aftersales of heating systems based on electrical, oil fired and waste heat recovery boilers utilizing steam, hot water and thermal oil as heating media – especially for the marine segment. During the period 2001–2007, the company grew rapidly, increasing its order book 18 times in over 40 countries. As a result of China´s leading position within world shipbuilding, the Chinese market became one of the company’s most important.
2000-2010: A Period Of Strong Growth
In 2006, Elpanneteknik was awarded an order for a 2 x 15MW start-up boiler system for the Olkiluoto 3 Nuclear Power plant in Finland. In 2007, the company initiated marketing of its products for the Chinese Nuclear Power Industry through a Chinese representative with three decades of experience in the Chinese boiler industry and energy sector, Mr. Yuan Rongmin.
Elpanneteknik implemented a revised quality system certified as per ISO9001:2008. The company was audited and approved by important customers such as Alstom and Siemens. For the marine and offshore industries, the company introduced low voltage boilers for gas carriers, and also performed important deliveries to the offshore industry.
S-Man started subsidiaries and liaison sales as well as aftersales offices in Brazil, Turkey, China and South Korea. During the period 2007–2010, S-Man was sold to an Italian boiler manufacturer and private equity fund.
In November 2009, during Sweden’s chairmanship of the European Union, the CEO of S-Man, Mårten Björk, participated as a delegate during the Sino-EU Business Summit in Nanjing, China. This coincided with the visit to China of the European Union Commission Chairman Mr Baroso, Swedish prime minister Mr Reinfeldt and Swedish foreign minister Mr Bildt. The meeting took place a few weeks prior to the environmental meeting in Copenhagen. The main theme of the event was to find ways of curbing the financial crisis through investments in Green Technology.
In search of alternative business, a search made necessary by the downturn of the marine market and based on his understanding of the potential impact by coal powered energy plants and district heating on the increasing air pollution in China, Mårten Björk decided to start marketing high voltage boilers in China, contacting Mr Leif Kring to discuss a potential co-operation.
2010-PRESENT: A New Company Is Born
In December 2009, the S-Man and the Elpanneteknik teams decided to join forces. A new company, Elpanneteknik Sweden AB, was registered early in 2010.
A consortium with Elpanneteknik, S-Man and a Chinese entity belonging to Mr Yuan Rongmin was founded. To secure a strategically important order, Mårten Björk contacted the Swedish Ambassador to China after hearing that the Swedish King, his majesty Carl XVI Gustaf, was to visit Beijing in May 2010. He proposed that based on the bid winning notice, the contract with Sanmen Nuclear Power Co Ltd should be part of the signing ceremony during the visit. The strategy worked and as a result, this became Elpanneteknik Sweden AB’s first Chinese order.
Between 2010 and 2012, Elpanneteknik focused on developing sales within the nuclear power segment and introducing high voltage boilers for Chinese district heating in particular. In addition, the company also focused on utilizing the increase within renewable energy solutions – an increase in which high voltage boilers play a natural and important role.
In 2011, the nuclear market was halted by the Fukushima disaster. Due to overbuilding within the marine sector and as a result of the continuing slow development of world trade, marine market remained sluggish and management also predicted a downturn for offshore markets. As a result, Elpanneteknik increased its efforts in renewables and district heating.
Between 2013 and 2016, Elpanneteknik Sweden received important orders from the nuclear power segment and today, the company is one of only two established world leading suppliers of immersion type high voltage steam and hot water boilers for this segment. We can provide case references from China, Sweden, Finland, Russia and the United Kingdom.
In addition, Elpanneteknik Sweden has also established itself as one of the leading suppliers on the European market for renewables and grid balancing, supplying high voltage hot water boilers connected to wind power with the ability to reach full capacity from minimum load within 30 seconds.
The most important development for the company has taken place in the area of Chinese district heating, utilizing lower “valley period” electricity prices, night time accumulation and electrical grid balancing connected to renewables. In order to maintain the position as market leader on the Chinese market, part of the Swedish management team devotes the majority of their time working in China. This work involves close co-operation with local partners, investors etc. to develop sales and aftersales, localize non-core part of deliveries and organize financing.
In collaboration with its partners, the company was the first to introduce Build Own Operate Transfer (BOT) and Private Public Partnerships (PPP) modes with reference to electrical district heating. This also strengthened Elpanneteknik Sweden’s development as a supplier. Initially, this work was carried out at the risk of the brave Chinese and Swedish entrepreneurs involved, but later it was done in close co-operation with stock listed partners, leading local and central Chinese governmental financial institutions etc.
Delivered plants are up and running in several provinces. The most well-known is also one of the world’s biggest – a 130MW plant located on the edge of the Gobi / Taklamakan desert, in Gansu province. In early 2017, Elpanneteknik Sweden shipped the world’s biggest ever consignment of high voltage boilers, comprising 30 units.
In June 2017, Elpanneteknik Sweden AB received its biggest ever order for grid balancing, a 400 MW high voltage hot water plant for grid balancing in Northern China. For this order, the boilers were produced and shipped within an impressive 4 months from the date of the received order.