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“Preben is Project Director in Ramboll Energy’s Power-division where he supervises biomass projects, primarily in Denmark, the UK, Bangladesh and Canada. He is furthermore the Service Line Manager for Bioconversion where he seeks out new clients on new or existing markets by offering Ramboll’s expertise within the fields of design, operation, maintenance, and optimisation of highly efficient biomass combined heat and power plants (CHP).”
”It is difficult to describe the satisfaction I felt when I realised that my competences were sound and that I was not regarded as a used car salesman selling mass-produced goods.” Project Director Preben Messerschmidt has earned his spurs as a consultant after his transition to external energy adviser. Preben is Project Director in Ramboll Energy’s Power-division where he supervises biomass projects, primarily in Denmark, the UK, Bangladesh and Canada. He is furthermore the Service Line Manager for Bioconversion where he seeks out new clients on new or existing markets by offering Ramboll’s expertise within the fields of design, operation, maintenance, and optimisation of highly efficient biomass combined heat and power plants (CHP).
Preben mainly deals with bioconversion – tasks concerning the conversion of plants from fossil fuel to biomass, such as wood pellets, wood chips or straw – but also covers the construction of dedicated biomass boilers and port-based biomass terminals.
As far back as 1995, when Preben was working for DONG Energy (then SK-Energi), he was affiliated with the “Avedøre Unit 2” project, where he was responsible for several installations together with the commissioning of the main boiler in 2001. It remains to this day the most complex and efficient CHP in the world.
The Avedøre Power Station was initially commissioned on natural gas and oil but has since been converted to biomass. The CHP is highly flexible and can operate on a variety of fuels, among them wood pellets, natural gas, fuel oil, straw and coal.
The aim is to minimise energy waste and CO2-emissions. One solution is to produce both heat and power, thereby utilising up to 94 % of the energy contained in the fuel source. The heat created contributes to the district heating of the Copenhagen area. Older facilities that produce electricity exclusively are usually only able to utilise 40 % of the energy in the fuel but the Avedøre Power Station excels in this area, too, with an electrical efficiency of more than 47 %.
According to Preben, safety is one of the biggest challenges with bioconversion and Ramboll offers a design that reduces the risk of accidents.
“The large amounts of wood pellets must be handled correctly. They must not come in contact with water and they contain dust and flammable gasses that can potentially spontaneously combust and explode. We offer our clients solutions that minimise the risks of these occurrences and alleviate the problem, if it should occur,” Preben explains.
In 2012 Preben, along with a couple of English colleagues, was given the opportunity to develop the Power division’s market in England. This formidable challenge, which he accepted, has since become a success story that has taken up a big part of his professional life. When Preben left for England, Ramboll was unknown in the field of power plants in the UK, but in two years the UK department has grown from one man to more than 20, and Ramboll is today one of the foremost consultants within Power.
This was quite the change for Preben, who through his previous employment in DONG Energy was accustomed to counselling internally in the organisation. “The client” was his own company, a position that provided him with a shielded working environment with shared values and assumptions. In Ramboll the client is external and far from being a given which presented him with an entirely new set of challenges:
“I have never considered myself a salesman. All of a sudden I had to visit clients in England and sell our competencies in an, at the time, unknown language to me, where my skills were really put to the test. It is difficult to describe the satisfaction I felt when I realised that my competences were sound and that I was not regarded as a used car salesman selling mass-produced goods. It was a great feeling to be in unknown territory and still be able to offer unique skills and competences that turned out to be in demand, and it was extremely motivating to have success outside of the relatively shielded environment I had previously worked in”, Preben explains.
“I must make it clear, though, that what I am selling is not only my own knowledge and skills, but those of Ramboll as a whole. When I present our services I could, in theory, present a lot of hot air, but afterwards my colleagues would have to deliver, and the fact that they are able to make good on my promises is very reassuring.”
Preben is living in Haslev, some 50 kilometers south of Copenhagen, with his wife of 31 years. Since 1996 they have had two foster children, a boy and a girl, who today are adopted and grown up. In the little spare time he has, he enjoys riding motorcycles and in 2009 he co-founded the motorcycle club “Chopper Club East”, where he and the other 19 members enjoy cruising the roads of South Zealand.
“I ride a ‘Harley look-alike’ – a Suzuki Intruder 1500 – with the missus on the back seat. We don’t do much racing anymore. It is more akin to a gourmet club these days because we always aim for a place where we can have a nice meal afterwards,” Preben admits smilingly.
Preben has always had a love for mechanics – he holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Haslev engineering college and is 56 years old.