Clarke Energy has been Australia and New Zealand’s leading distributor and service partner for GE’s Jenbacher gas engines and high efficiency diesel fuelled engines since 1999. Currently in 23 countries, the multinational market leader for gas applications augments the application of engineering integration and supports oil and gas assets by supplying long-term maintenance support for client’s gas generation equipment. Clarke Energy has turned over an impressive AUS$135 million with nearly 600MW of installed power generation equipment across Australia and New Zealand.
Based in Thebarton, Adelaide, the innovative business employs 125 dedicated staff members made up of engineers, project managers, sales experts and administrative personnel. The leading company has installed developments on renewable energy facilities for landfill and biogas, as well as high efficiency generation through combined heat and power, waste coal mine, coal seam methane and flare gas facilities.
Clarke Energy saw enormous success in 2015 with the completion of Origin Energy’s Australia Pacific LNG project and is continuing the trend this year by securing new critical infrastructure contracts, winning distribution rights, surpassing tough market conditions and acquiring business opportunities abroad. “We always seem to find a way and this year, we probably will still have our second best trading year in the 16-17 years we’ve been in business,” said Greg Columbus, Clarke Energy’s Main Board director in Australia.
Heading Clarke Energy’s Thebarton office, Columbus basically grew up in coal-fired generation in power stations in Queensland, working in power generation and power voltage distribution. The experienced mechanical engineer began his career as an electrical apprentice and now has a solid understanding of mechanics and electrics given his trade in engineering. “Today I bring more of a holistic approach to our business – particularly the vision, the strategy and the risk evaluation – to how we execute on the operation (on a) day-to-day basis,” explained Columbus.
Tough market conditions, especially in the oil and gas sector have had an impact on Clarke Energy’s business but according to Columbus, Clarke Energy always seems to find a way. “We have a high efficient class product and we have been able to create demand for our customers who are wanting to reduce costs,” explained the director. “The focus has really been about driving cost down and then having a look at brown-field opportunities to bring in new efficient equipment.”
The leading company has now introduced and sold diesel into Australia with its first project to be commissioned in late July. “It has been quite a successful launch which has given us a solid pipeline because we now have a product in Australia we can use as a demonstrator on the ground,” remarked Columbus. In April 2015, GE awarded Clarke Energy as the first authorised distributor for diesel engine sales and services in Australia. This large opportunity now allows Clarke Energy Australia to represent as the distributor of every one of GE’s recent products. In November, it was awarded GE’s Waukesha gas engine distribution rights in the country.
“GE’s Waukesha gas engines are typically used in mechanical drive and compression in the oil and gas industry, a little bit in power generation, but it is a complimentary product to the GE Jenbacher gas engine.”
“There’s already a sizable installed base of these units offering a current service opportunity, but also as the oil and gas market turns around, it will give us another area to play upstream as well as downstream in the power generation,” explained the board director.
An additional highlight for Clarke Energy was in December 2015 when it was chosen to supply and install Australia’s first highly efficient 2.6MW 616 diesel engine from GE’s Distributed Power business (NYSE:GE) at the Diamantina Power Station in Mount Isa, Queensland. The 616 diesel unit will assist the station’s “black start” capabilities to slow the plant to return to service when a system outage occurs. Clarke Energy plans to commission this project in July this year.
The main highlight of 2015 for Clarke Energy’s Australian operations was the undertaking of Origin Energy’s AP LNG project where the company saw the successful delivery of 87MW across three sites over an 18 month period. An Australian first, Clarke was able to stop and start large loads hanging off small high-speed power stations. The company will be put forward for an award for this achievement later this year.
In February of this year, Clarke Energy was awarded the opportunity to be a part of a significant Northern Territory $100 million Power Infrastructure Upgrade in Owen Springs and Tennant Creek. As GE’s authorised distributor of Jenbacher gas engines, Clarke Energy will supply 10 of GE’s high-efficiency gas engines to electric utility company Territory Generation for an upgrade at its existing Owen Springs power station facility. This project is a vital part of the Northern Territory Government of Australia’s $75 million investment in Central Australia.
“We’ve been selected to build the power station that will supply the entire township of nearly 29,000 people,” said Columbus. “This is a critical project for Territory Generation, it’s an important project to get right on time and right technically in terms of delivery.” The project will generate an electrical output of more than 50MW of electricity which is expected to drive the reliability and efficiency of the town’s power supply and reduce electricity costs.
When Clarke Energy first entered onto the Australian market, the company suffered from brand awareness. Clarke Energy’s installed-base was only around 48MW compared to today’s 600MW. “We really had to work hard and create the brand awareness and leverage off the great product reputation that it had at the time,” said Columbus. “Since we did that, there has been an overwhelming acceptance in recognising us as a class-leading service provider with complete solutions.”
The company is looking to expand their current services while bringing in high-efficient, low-cost power generation for their customers. As for key targets, Columbus explained that Clarke Energy has the new product lines – GE’s Waukesha engine, the diesel engine for diesel applications and the high efficient gas power generation. “It’s these three products together and finding the right portfolio of opportunity where we can continue to innovate and find a value proposition for our customers to reduce the costs and increase the efficiency to the business.”
Clarke Energy’s Australian operations plan to continue their success by focusing on creating new demand and finding new value propositions for their customers throughout 2017.
“Our vision as a minimum is to maintain our sustainable successful model whilst working through what is probably a low point in the economic commodity and oil cycle,” concluded Columbus. “We want to remain best placed with our key resources and our human capital in IP, to be ahead of the market when the cycle turns around.”