Atlantis Resources: Power of global partnerships and just good timing
CEO Tim Cornelius and recently hired non-executive board chairman John Neill chat with Tidal Today on the company’s planned IPO on London’s AIM market, the importance of a structured business and how things really seem to be going in the right direction for the wider tidal industry.
By K.Steiner-Dicks on Feb 12, 2014
It is mid-January and Tim Cornelius, Chief Executive Officer of Singapore-based Atlantis Resources, is paying his London cab driver with one hand, while juggling a mobile phone call from me in the other. I imagine this type of juggling act will be a common occurrence for Cornelius as he and his management team go from meeting to meeting, to prepare for the company’s pending IPO on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market. But as recently announced, they will have an extra set of hands on board.
Recently hired non-executive board chairman John Neill (formerly of the Bank of England and Royal Mail) will play an important role in getting the company prepared and structured for raising up to £20m ($32.7m) via a public listing, and beyond.
Priorities for 2014
Atlantis, in which Morgan Stanley holds a significant equity stake, will spend about half of the proceeds of the share sale to fund part of the 86-megawatt first phase of its MeyGen project in Scotland. Construction is expected to start just after the first quarter, according to Cornelius, with power generation forecast to begin in early 2015. It may eventually reach a capacity of as much as 398MW, according to an Atlantis press statement.
Which market factors helped the company gain the confidence to plan a listing on London Stock Market’s AIM?
TC: “There has been a combination of factors that have paid off after a long time waiting, including the regulatory environment, the proposed strike price of £305 MWh for wave and tidal energy as part of the UK’s electricity market reform and the award of consents to the MeyGen project.
“But there also have been some positive news in wider jurisdictions such as Canada, for example, that has helped investors to understand that tidal energy is a growing global asset class. These have been some of the determining events that have made us decide to come to market.
Given the company's international roots, why have you chosen London's AIM as a listing market? And will you consider a dual listing in future?
TC: “The AIM market in particular has been very vibrant in the cleantech sector, and has secured a fair amount of money in the past six to 12 months. Given our flagship project is based in the UK it was a natural choice for us to list here.”
With the appointment of John Neill, where or how do you believe he will be able to strengthen the company most?
TC: “John Neill is one of the UK’s great entrepreneurs whose track record speaks for itself in terms of what he can achieve over a limited amount of time. He will be able to provide guidance to the management team on to how to structure our business. His unified way of knowing how to make a business more efficient in after sales and service, will be a key element that he brings to our company.
How is the company dividing its time and resources in 2014 between the flagship Scotland/MeyGen project and your projects in other markets, such as India, Canada- with Lockheed Martin and Irving- and in China with CECEP?
TC: “The MeyGen project is critical for the whole industry, so our main focus and resources in 2014 will prioritise its delivery. But the ability to go global is really a reflection on our partnerships, such as with Lockheed Martin, which gives us access to a supply chain capability which is truly world-wide.”
[Background Information: MeyGen Limited is 100% owned by Atlantis Resources Limited. The Company was established in 2010 solely for the development of the Inner Sound tidal site, and continues to focus on this, initially with the delivery of Phase 1a (up to 6 tidal turbines) in 2015/16. Given both the strategic and economic importance of the project to the marine energy sector Atlantis and MeyGen continue to work closely with the Scottish Government, DECC, Crown Estate, key stakeholders, and contractors alike to deliver Europe’s largest and most important tidal energy project.]
When asked whether Atlantis Resources’ global partnering model, is one to be replicated by other tidal developers to bring scale and capital to the industry, Cornelius said that while he would not go as far as to say it is a model to be replicated, it is a model that has worked for them.
TC: “The depth and breadth which you can achieve with a global presence and how we can allocate our internal resources because of these partnerships make it a responsible model. I think we will see other partnerships in the sector follow.”
[Background: In 2013, Lockheed Martin and Atlantis signed a contract whereby Lockheed Martin would provide lead design and engineering services for the new Atlantis 1.5MW turbine and become a global technology partner. Included within the agreement is the design and demonstration of the first Atlantis 1.5 megawatt AR1500 turbine nacelle, to be deployed at the company’s Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) berth. Atlantis and Lockheed Martin have collaborated on the project since 2011, with Lockheed Martin to provide engineering design elements, procurement of major components, systems integration and testing of the turbine. Atlantis received a $5m grant for the project from the Sustainable Development Technologies Canada fund in 2013 and is currently working towards deployment in 2015.]
And when asked about Atlantis’ interest in developing a project in France, Cornelius had this to say:
TC: “We have our own strategy for the French market and we will flesh that out and give more details in due course. We like to have a strong local presence and build up a comprehensive supply chain. We are in multiple discussions now to deliver own project and gain market credibility in the French market, but we are not in a position to talk further about that at this time. We are looking to make an announcement about our plans in France during the summer this year.”
And on the subject of how the tidal sector can become more cost efficient he pointed to supply chain integration as a key step in bringing costs down.
TC: “We see a lot of opportunities to improve supply chain integration on the production and technology sides, between the tidal industry and the oil and gas and offshore wind sectors.”
Where do you believe the tidal industry can make improvements to be a stronger contender in the renewable energy sector? And where do you believe Atlantis can achieve these improvements given your experience and industry knowledge?
JN: “I am new to the industry so will have a steep learning curve over the coming months. However, in my opinion, the tidal power sector enjoys two compelling features.
“Firstly, tidal power generation is predictable and secondly the scale of resource is substantial and the vast majority of that resource currently remains undeveloped.
“The challenge for the industry is building up scale and reducing cost. I have experience in driving efficiency within companies with a focus on cost and quality control –hopefully Atlantis can benefit from some of the lessons I have learned over the years.”
What have been your first impressions of the company and the company's Scotland-installed turbine, if you have seen it in action yet?
JN: “I have been very impressed by the dynamism, expertise and commitment of the entire Atlantis team. The executive management are passionate and hardworking and have created a strong foundation to position the company for the future, both in Scotland with MeyGen and internationally with our projects in Canada, India and China.
“A reflection on the quality of the team is the company that it keeps, and Atlantis is surrounded by world class companies all aligned in wanting to make tidal power a significant contributor to the world’s future energy mix.”
The multi-national developer of commercial scale tidal power projects is at a point where it can attract the attention of institutional and retail investors alike now that it has passed grid-connected tests in the water and signed some contracts with global partners, such as Lockheed Martin, that can bring scale, engineering expertise and supply networks to the mix.
Soon after Cornelius and I speak the European Commission published a report outlining the action needed to deliver on Europe’s sea and ocean power by 2020 and beyond. The timing could not have been more ideal for the tidal industry.
The report stated that the position of European industry in the global ocean energy market is ‘currently strong’. This is evidenced by the fact that most of the technology developers are based in Europe, said the report, however, it pointed out that growing competition from China, Canada and other industrialised nations are expected. The good thing for Atlantis is that it already has projects at different stages of development in these markets, giving it a market advantage. The global activity is also a good sign for investors sniffing around the broader cleantech sector.
The UK's Carbon Trust estimated that the global wave and tidal energy market could be worth up to €535bn between 2010 and 2050.
These figures have caught the eye of the Commission. The recent EC report aptly states, ‘creating the conditions under which the sector could prosper now would enable the EU to capture a sizable share of the market in the future. Innovation through research and development can allow the EU to generate export opportunities for both technology and expertise. It is critical, therefore, to ensure that the EU can maintain its global industrial leadership.’
One way that this could be accelerated is to adapt what the EU calls a ‘European Industrial Initiative’. The shared learning process could be developed based on the outcomes of the Ocean Energy Forum (another meeting of the minds to discuss the latest developments, environmental hurdles and cost efficiencies).
Several European Industrial Initiatives (EIIs) have already been established under the SET-Plan. EIIs are public-private partnerships that bring together industry, researchers, Member States and the Commission to set out and achieve clear and shared objectives over a specific timeframe. They can enhance the effectiveness of innovative research and development and provide a platform for sharing investment risk.
Coordinating such an exercise will be challenging logistically. Divulging information, which is advantageous for the industry, will also need to be shared in such a way that those providing the information are not threatened commercially or competitively. But until such initiatives start to take place, all eyes will be on MeyGen and Atlantis’ next move in France since this is a company that is not only rooting for the home team in the UK, but the tidal sector as a global energy asset class.
Atlantis has appointed N+1 Singer as its Nominated Adviser & Broker in relation to its proposed IPO on AIM.
Background on the Technology
The AR1500 is the latest tidal power turbine system under development at Atlantis. The AR1500 will have a rated capacity of 1.5MW at 3.0 m/s and will be designed to withstand the extreme environmental conditions expected to be encountered in the Pentland Firth in Scotland and the Bay of Fundy in Canada. The detailed design of this cutting edge turbine will be completed by Lockheed Martin Corporation during 2014. The AR1500 system will have pitching blades and full nacelle yaw rotation capability to facilitate operation in highly energetic deployment locations.
The AR1000 is a commercial scale 1MW horizontal axis turbine designed for open ocean deployment. The AR1000 features a single rotor set with highly efficient fixed pitch blades, which offer a cost saving over variable pitch blades for less extreme site conditions. The AR1000 can be rotated in the slack period between tides using a yaw drive, and then fixed in place for the optimal heading for the next tide. The AR1000 is designed to produce its nameplate capacity of 1MW in water flows of 2.65m/s and above. The company first deployed and commissioned this turbine at the EMEC facility during the summer of 2011. Later in 2012, Atlantis became the first tidal turbine developer to carry out full scale drive train testing at the Nautilius facility at Narec, during which the tidal developer proved turbine generation at full capacity, carried out accelerated lifecycle testing and validated the control system. The fixed pitch AR1000 system is now scheduled to be installed on CECEP's Daishan demonstration site in China during 2014.
The AS series turbines are ducted horizontal axis turbines suitable for deployment with mono-directional blades in river environments and bi-directional blades in diurnal tidal locations. AS turbines feature a swept back blade design and control system to optimise turbine efficiency across flow velocity distributions. The AS140, the first of the AS series, was designed from first principles using extensive computer modelling and, during tow testing in 2008, was independently verified as showing market leading efficiency. This ducted turbine system is ideally suited to sheltered ocean and run-of-river locations.
The AN150, the first of the AN series, is a shallow water turbine which has been extensively tested and grid connected in Australia. The turbine uses Aquafoils™ to capture momentum from the flow of water to drive a chain perpendicular to the flow. The turbine is robust and can withstand water flow containing significant debris. It is fully scalable and has been developed over a 6 year period, with multiple tow-testing and continual optimisation. Tow testing of the AN turbine was carried out in July 2008, and the device was subsequently grid connected at our test facility in San Remo, Victoria in Australia. This turbine system is ideally suited to shallow water locations in rivers, man-made structures or open ocean environments.