Working across energy, telecommunications, transport and the environment, Abengoa is a Spanish multinational ago that applies the latest technology to create sustainability in the infrastructures, energy and water sectors. Established 76 years ago, Abengoa's headquarters are in Seville, Spain, and the company also has a presence in the US, Mexico, South America, South Africa, Europe and the Middle East. In November, Abengoa embarked upon a new contract on behalf of Fulcrum BioEnergy to produce biofuel in the US from municipal solid waste, also known as landfill, using the latest gasification technology. Reported on by Bio-Based World News, the Nevada project will eventually produce 10 million gallons of fuel annually for use in the aviation industry.
Now, for this week’s 5 Minutes With…, Abengoa’s CEO, Craig Windram, took time out of his busy schedule to explain to Dave Songer what it is about the industry that gets him out of bed in the morning, the challenges he encounters and how Spain and the US do things a little differently.
Dave Songer (DS): What first inspired you to work in the bio industry?
Craig Windram (CW): I first began working on bio projects in Australia, motivated by the combination of technical, commercial and environmental challenges they represented.
(DS): Can you tell me a little about your role at Abengoa, and what you most enjoy most about it?
(CW): I currently head up all of Abengoa's business in North America, where we focus on turnkey engineering, procurement and construction projects in the waste to energy, biofuels, renewable energy, energy storage, water and transmission sectors. I most enjoy the challenge of bringing a great group of professionals together around a common objective and delivering for our clients.
(DS): You’ve been working in environmental-based roles for more than 20 years; what have been some of the biggest changes since then?
(CW): The two biggest changes have been the extent to which renewables have become mainstream, in addition to their unprecedented growth.
(DS): What is the biggest professional challenge you’ve faced?
(CW): Without doubt, the biggest and most satisfying professional challenges I have faced have been in developing and financing large, complex, first-of-a-kind renewable projects. The sheer number of pieces that you have to put together to create a successful project, and the necessity of creating innovative guarantee and security frameworks so that such projects are bankable, are what make this type of work so challenging. The social and environmental benefits that arise from the completed projects are what make this type of work so rewarding.
(DS): What advice would you give someone looking to get a foothold in the bio-based industry?
(CW): There is nothing like exposure to developing any pioneering bio or renewable project to give you a deep and practical understanding of the many technical, legal and commercial issues that you have to address in order to create a successful project; it is the best type of hands-on experience you can get.
(DS): What are Abengoa’s key business priorities for 2018, can you provide any details?
(CW): Abengoa is going to centre on engineering, procurement and construction turnkey projects for third parties in the energy (generation and transmission) and water sectors where we are acknowledged market leaders.
Specifically, for Abengoa in North America we are focused on quality execution on our existing backlog of projects, including Fulcrum's Sierra Biofuels project, which we’re very excited about working on, and on growing our business in the solar, storage, biofuel, waste to energy, transmission and water spaces – where we see a lot of opportunities to make a difference with Abengoa's engineering and construction capabilities.
(DS): You now work in the US for Abengoa, having previously been in its Spain offices; what is the biggest difference between how each country approaches the bioeconomy?
(CW): Each geography has its own unique challenges and approaches. In the US, one of the most exciting developments to keep an eye on is the growth in the corporate or green bond market as a source of very competitive financing for the right project. This is something that could spur further development and is not so readily accessible in Spain.
(DS): What is your favourite bio-based product and why?
(CW): At present, I'm very impressed with the potential of synfuels made from waste and biomass to be used as an alternate fuel for use in the aviation industry.
(DS): Craig, thanks so much for taking part. We look forward to seeing the next Abengoa project in action.
Read the last 5 minutes with… David Smernoff, co-founder & CTO at HelioBioSys.
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