Science Behind Technology

Interview with Olivier Hanne

Global Sales Director at Desmet Ballestra Group

What was your first job?

My first job was in Taiwan. I was hired in a commercial department of Bekaert – the world market leader in steel wire transformation and coating technologies. At that time, I was studying Chinese and was willing to relocate to Taiwan. My main focus in this role was to conduct market intelligence  survey to support the commercial teams in Asian offices of Bekaert. It was a challenging assignment for a young graduate in a foreign environment. I worked there for 1,5 years and learnt a lot on cultural aspects and differences, as mainly my colleagues were local people who spoke Chinese only. Since then, I’m not afraid of challenges and eager to overcome them.

What interested you about the biofuels industry?

Biofuel industry interests me because it’s a next step towards greener world. I’m eager to see how Desmet Ballestra can contribute to the environmentally friendly movement. We engineer, provide and supply technologies and plants that produce fuel in more sustainable way. We put a lot of efforts to study the impact of HVO pre-treatment technologies that can accept almost any feedstock keeping reliable, efficient process in place.

There are also quite some challenges in this market, for example conflict between edible oil and oil that is used for fuel. There is a dilemma of vegetable oil being used in the food industry and now more and more in the fuel industry. How it can affect global economy and to what extend it can contribute to a more sustainable world? The answers are still to be found.

What does a typical day consist of?

I get up between 7 and 8 am, have a good breakfast to fill myself with energy for the day to come and go to work. Since I’m in charge of a commercial function in a big organization, I interact with our customers on a daily basis. A big part of my life is traveling as well, I visit our customers all over the world because I believe that face-to-face interaction plays a significant role in the decision-making process.

Due to our global scale, each day I communicate with my colleagues that manage projects in different parts of the world. In the morning, I have a call with Asian or Indian office; afternoon is for European colleagues and late afternoon, North and South Americas become active. This is what I like about my job.

The best way to relax for me in the evening is doing sports activities. After long day at work, I do some sports to get out of the work routine mentally and physically. Then I feel ready for the next day!

Tell us a bit about Desmet Ballestra and what the company does?

Desmet Ballestra Group provides engineering and supply of plants and equipment for Oils&Fats, Oleochemicals and Biofuel industries worldwide. Our portfolio of technologies is very wide and includes the entire process from A to Z in the oilseeds, oils and fats processing as well as oleochemicals and biofuel solutions. We supply projects on Engineering and Procurement (EP) basis and clients can rely on our support in terms of erection and start-up of their plants.

We’re a global player with offices in India, China, Malaysia, Europe, covering Africa as well, Atlanta for North America and Buenos Aires for South America. Proximity to the customers is a key to understand their requirements throughout the various stages of a project, to meet their specifications enabling to propose best-in-class solutions and provide service level to ensure a technical support during the life span of the plants.

What is your favourite book and film?

My favourite movie is a “Chariots of fire”. I like the challenge that is expressed in this movie. I’m eager to overcome challenges in life as well. The movie is very inspiring and motivating. It delivers on the message - if you work hard, you can overcome the challenge and reach your goal!

As for the books, I like the books about history. For example, I read the book about history of Europe and why it became a power house in the past. Apparently, in Europe there were many wars and fights between neighbours and it encouraged people to invent new tools, equipment, and weapons to defeat a rival. This laid the foundation of creativity and industrial inventions that helped Europe to venture into the world and explore new territories.

In the same register, I have very much appreciated the reading of the book “Sapiens” by Mr. Harari who tells about the mankind history.

How do you like to relax?

Sport is my main relaxation. It’s important for me to recharge batteries after a long day and do some physical activities. I try to combine it with daily job but most of the time, my weekends are dedicated to sports.

I practice field hockey and am part of the team that plays in Belgian championship. Every weekend during the season, from September to April, we get together with the team to practice and have fun together. I like to play field hockey because it’s a technical game plus the team is important. You can’t win the game alone!

On regular days, I go running or cycling, but my special treat is mountaineering. Every winter, I go to the mountains and do some outdoor activities that include climbing, cross country skiing, mountain skiing. My favorite one is to climb the mountain on skis and then go down! I told you – I love to overcome a challenge.

Where is the best place to go on holiday?

Wherever a mountain is.

What do you think are some of the immediate challenges the sector faces in the years ahead?

As I mentioned before, I see the main challenge for the sector is scarcity of raw material for the Biofuels in the future. If we will experience the same growth in HVO industry as we did in the last 5 years, availability of feedstock will be very important. It might create a pressure on edible oil industries for food and feed that can impact prices and affect people’s income. The industry needs to look for a balance between large feedstock volumes without putting pressure on vegetable oil sector.

 

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