CEO Max Jonsson has taken charge of the jigsaw puzzle of Chemrec's large investment projects
Young but experienced, decisive but detailed. Nothing will fall through the cracks when the new CEO directs Chemrec’s large investment projects. “Chemrec technology is safe and stable, but there is a harsh financial reality out there”, says Max Jonsson. “In large projects every single risk must be perfectly allocated. I am on this job to assist our customers and partners to create financeable projects using our technology.”
– Projects of this size can only be realized when you manage to allocate every single risk and reward to partners who both understand the technology and have a financial capacity, says Mr Jonsson. It is all about common sense, but the list of things to consider is very long. It is like a jigsaw puzzle of a thousand pieces and they must all fit.
With his extensive background in finance in large European companies and lately as CEO at Nykomb Synergetics, one of Chemrec’s owners, Max Jonsson knows what he is talking about. He has hands-on experience from several heavy projects in the power business as well as the technical insight needed to be attentive to the right details.
Making the technology understandable
– Even though I am not an engineer I am very curious about technology, I like reading technical documents and translate it into something understandable for financers. Technology is the base for what we do, and, clearly, without our 50 000 hours of operations in New Bern, 12 000 hours in Piteå and our staff which has proven credible with the industry, world-class EPCs*, public authorities and oil companies we could not hope to realize a project. Our challenge now is to integrate technology and all other parts to make a financeable project which is understandable and attractive to both the pulp industry and the financial community.
And this is part of what he did during his years at Nykomb – then the project was finding financing for Chemrec itself. In less than a year contracts were signed with two of Chemrec’s present owners.
– Jonas Rudberg at Chemrec had already done a fantastic job at approaching financers and I just finalized it together with him. I focused a lot on describing Chemrec’s technology for the financers. I wanted to make clear that it is not a research project that will go on forever but a technology ready to be realized and commercialized on an investor's horizon.
Having already been on the Chemrec board for five years the step towards his present position as CEO was a natural and simple one. As he says: “Having come up with a lot of ideas, it seems fair that I am now the one to make sure that they are carried out!”
A focused and impatient leader
Although he was brought up in Sweden it was not until 2005 that he took his first professional position there. Finance studies were followed by a position as controller at Millicom in Luxembourg and later as a financial director at France Telecom. He has also been a trainee at Edison Mission Energy in London, a developer of independent power projects, where his interest in the power industry was born. Mr Jonsson participated in several debt and equity financings during this time.
– I was brought up in a work environment where you would get a good scolding if you had not delivered your message in less than thirty seconds. Also, as an entrepreneur, I inhabit a very concrete and hands-on world where you make it work and can’t pass the buck. This has influenced me and I am a rather impatient leader, expecting focus on what is important. I listen well, everybody will get a chance to share their views, but then I am quick to make decisions and bring matters forward.
And matters are surely brought forward when Mr Jonsson puts his hands to them. During his years at Nykomb Synergetics he was able to finance the reconstruction of a power plant in Latvia during the worst of the financial crisis while the rest of the country was falling apart. Then he was instrumental in Nycomb gaining a power purchase agreement for a 125 MW coal power plant in Africa. He also founded and led the start-up of the HyHeat energy recovery technology company, whose technology won the Swedish Environmental Innovation of the year award in 2009. Now Chemrec’s big investment projects are in turn.
In charge of the jigsaw puzzle
– This is what I hope I can contribute with to Chemrec, to help our customers make reality of the projects. Chemrec is clearly the most mature biomass gasification technology - we have the goods but to sell them we need to make the project using them happen. In function of what our customers desire, we will tailor our technical solutions to the customers and help structure EPC terms that work, obtain public support, off-take and supply, structure a relationship between the host mill and other investors, financiers and partners etc. Key in this is having realistic expectations about the risk appetite of each stakeholder – for example, I see the pulp industry as only buying a plant when the risk-reward picture is very clear and can be expressed and analyzed in familiar terms – the industry is not a technology venture capitalist.
– In recent months we have seen fantastic progress in addition to technology in terms of a commercial relationship with a pulp-industry player, on products off-take by an oil company and on conditions for EPC delivery of a plant. More about this in upcoming issues of Chemrec News.
Mr Jonsson has taken charge of that great jigsaw puzzle. One by one the pieces are attentively put together and look! Can you discern that landscape? Modern, prosperous pulp mills, now gasifying their black liquor, offering the market their traditional pulp products as well as the world’s cleanest, most energy efficient fuels. I can.
* EPC: Engineer, Procure and Construct