PROBIO Energy, the multi-fuel provider, has been exporting since the day it began. The company processes and provides alternative fuels to clients both in UK, Europe and the Far East. MD Stuart Rain told BQ about how PROBIO started exporting, and where he plans to take it next...
MD Stuart Rain started the business back in 2014 with the aim of diverting waste from landfill and allowing energy to be reborn. He said: "We maximise recycling and recovery rates by providing many types of alternative fuels, which would otherwise go to landfill. The majority of our fuels are then exported for use in waste to energy and cement plants within Europe."
Now doing business in Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Bulgaria, Vietnam and India, Rain always saw exporting as a natural part of the company’s journey, but had to wait until the time was right. He said: "In order to export we had to apply for a Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Notification (TFS) through the Environment Agency both in the UK and in the destination country, this usually takes on average two to three months to ensure all the relevant permissions are in place before exports can begin."
Once PROBIO Energy got started, it found that doing business overseas came naturaly. Rain explained, "I would have to say quality control is the easiest part of exporting. PROBIO invested a lot of time and effort from the start of our overseas operations building relationships with all key partners in the chain.
"Clear quality standards were set out from the beginning and staff were educated on the consequences of not adhering to guidelines, specifically explaining the problems that power plants face with poor quality fuel. Our quality control team takes a zero tolerance approach; if standards aren’t met the fuel is rejected. Exports have now been running smoothly for some time and everyone knows what part they play in the quality control of our fuels."
Although the PROBIO team is well prepared for exporting, Rain told BQ that there are often issues that can’t be solved with preparation when you are exporting something like fuel. He said: "Organising the logistics for the loading of a vessel can often be challenging. You have to ensure you have enough stock of fuel at the permitted port to fill then vessel, combined with telehandlers on the ground and machinery to load the vessel.
"Organising the team to quality check at loadings along with the relevant staff for the actual loading is the easy part, however I learnt early that fixing a vessel is not like booking a taxi for a set time and date. Many factors influence the arrival of a vessel such as weather, tides, drafts, crew changes etc and the hard part is booking all the relevant labour then the vessel arrival being delayed as everyone has to be re-booked for the new date."
Despite facing challenges along the way, PROBIO Energy has been exporting for two years and shows no signs of stopping. Rain says that the company is now looking to the future, "As the traditional European markets become saturated, we are looking to export to less traditional markets within the EU. We are also looking a little closer to home as plants start to come online within the UK."
The Department for International Trade (DIT) are a partner for the Around the World in 80 Trades feature.
The Northern Powerhouse team of DIT offers a whole host of support for businesses across the Northern region that wish to export. Regular regional hosted webinars and events include topics such as strategy, finding the right market, finance, e-exporting and research. The sessions are very practical and provide guidance from those who have experienced exporters. For brand new exporters there are taster missions and trade missions, to a number of countries, where DIT find opportunities in a particular country and take UK companies to meet with potential buyers.
The UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) has overall responsibility for promoting UK trade across the world and attracting foreign investment to our economy. We are a specialised government body with responsibility for negotiating international trade policy and supporting business.