Apart from a few experts, nobody sees the lining of the boilers, so nobody can really truly appreciate it,
Ing. Jan Ečer, Chairman of the Board of Directors of DITHERM a.s., said in an interview for All for Power magazine
Jan Ečer (1960)
He is a graduate of the Secondary Industrial School of Civil Engineering (Transport Engineering, Pilsen, 1980). In 1985 he was awarded the title of Ing. at CTU (Faculty of Civil Engineering, field of Civil Engineering). Shortly after his studies, he joined the company Teplotechna Praha - Žarotechnika section. In 1990 he established DITHERM s.r.o., in 1995 DITHERM a.s. He is a member of the Silicate Society. He lives in Prague and has two children. His interests include sports, reading and meditation.
Your company is focused on the design and development of heat resistant linings, which you can also mount yourself. What are all of the activities that your business is involved in?
Since 1990, we have continuously developed our know-how in designing and developing linings for industrial aggregates, as well as in application technology and material properties. What we design, we also assemble. We also manage the manufacturer of the materials. So we have full responsibility for both the idea itself and its implementation, including the materials that we make available throughout Europe. In order to make this happen for customers, banks and insurance companies, we need skilled people who want to constantly learn, are not afraid of new challenges and do not need to show off. The lining, in the end, except for a few experts, is not seen by anyone, so it is not really appreciated. Our development is greatly helped by the fact that we work for all industries and we are not dependent on a particular materials producer.
Which areas do you most support?
We have invested millions of crowns in the development of people and the technical and technological background, even in times when we were very skeptical. With all modesty, I have to say that we have the best design and technical team in both the know-how and the equipment, among companies dealing with the same field in the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. We model the lining in 3D and for clients, we are able to provide an aggregation modelling system that records all changes, creates archives, as well as a plan, you can “play” the model from many angles of view. Anyone who bought the model does not want to get rid of it. Our engineers know that they have to find a solution for the investor, so they combine designs, verify materials and technology, right up to the last moment. They are able to respond quickly and professionally.
In the last three to four years, we have been heavily invested in changing the company’s management system and orders. We have introduced project management to all processes and activities of the company. It meant changing the management tools and, above all, working practices and thinking in people, which is the most difficult task. At the same time, we have invested in new technologies and training. The results came. We are able to respond rapidly and professionally to demand from abroad, as well. Where we previously needed 100 people, we will now use 75 with an incomparably higher level of expertise, both technical and in project management. In this trend, we will continue in the coming years to stay ahead.
Where do you operate?
Since 2006, DITHERM has owned a subsidiary of Thermostav Bratislava in Slovakia, so we are the most profitable in these markets. In addition, our activities are rooted in Poland, Germany, Austria, and then some contracts in Italy, Hungary, Russia, the Ukraine and other countries. In general, about 25 % of our activity is abroad, the rest is in the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
The subject of business is the same for both companies, but while DITHERM is stronger in the power and ferrous and non-ferrous metals industry, the strength of the Slovak company lies primarily in the glassworks industry and incinerators. Common sectors of activity include the energy, chemical and construction industries.
Describe the most up-to-date realization.
For example, we have completed the project of a fluid boiler in Bielsko-Biala, Poland, with Foster Wheeler. For over a year, we have been working on a new investment for the Alstom supercritical boiler plant in Ledvice. Two years ago, we completed an investment project in Slovakia for the construction of a new mini steelworks for Slovakia Steel Mills. In Germany, we have been undertaking extensive reconstruction of the glass furnace lining for a year. We normally work on ČEZ, Alpiq, and Opatovice Power Plants. In other fields, for Trmice heating plant, Holcim, SES Tlmače, Unex, Mondi Steti, Synthos, Vitkovice, All Invest Břidličná and others.
How exactly are you benefiting investors, such as the heating plant in Hodonín?
Power plant experts know the process of energy production, and they are perfect. This is a subject that is alive. They do not need to know the process of making the steel structure, and the steel shell of the boiler, in which they produce energy. The same applies to linings in such an aggregate. Technical choices and paths are few; you always choose the one that is most effective in time, quality and price. This is preceded by a long and demanding computation process, combining the chemical composition of the material with the technology. And if you have all of this, it will start with the tough process of producing materials and testing, training installers, quality control system, planning every detail and ultimately, the supplier gives a several year guarantee.
In addition, we still provide service, so we are on call at any time. We recommend a 3D modelling system where the investor can easily see the past or the future of repairs, or simulate them. A huge advantage is that we are professionally active in all industries. We can then transfer knowledge from one field to another, to provide superior technical solutions.
We know the Hodonín power plant very well, as we have been providing service for many years, so even a demanding project such as the “Enhancement of lining lifetime” was a bit easier, thanks to our knowledge of the environment. The aim of the project is to replace the lining, which must resist acidifying biomass and reduce heat loss of the boiler. From a technical point of view, a very complex dilemma. We finally offered the investor more technical solutions than usual, because we know the behaviour of the boiler.
3D view of the boiler in the Hodonín heating plant
What is the difference between lining for an energy boiler and, say, for metallurgy?
It’s a huge word. Totally different purposes and uses, other fuels, i.e. chemistry that affects the lining, different temperatures and operating hours. While a lining lasts 15 years in the energy industry, you may change it in a steel furnace every week or month. You need abrasion resistant linings in the energy industry because of the flue gas abrasions. In the processing of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, the lining is literally eaten and burned with fused metal and must therefore be extremely resistant to chemical influences. Making such materials is very demanding, for both the recipe and the time and cost.
Scheme of biomass boiler
Boiler combustion chamber with fluidizing layer