Helping to store radioactive waste for 100,000 years or more in a depot in Finland is one of the challenges and opportunities for Christchurch-based geological software modelling company ARANZ Geo.
In Russia it is looking to open its 13th office to service clients in the mining and environmental sector.
“A lot of people only know us as a quirky Christchurch technology company,” chief executive Shaun Maloney said.
Nowadays the company has turnover of $30 million a year, averaging 25 per cent growth in recent years, 180 staff with 100 in Christchurch, while providing most of its services to overseas clients.
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“We transformed from a research house in 2010 into a full commercial business with revenue at that time of about $2.5m, so we’ve grown considerably.”
One of the company’s latest projects was to model the geological complexity of Vienna’s subway project, which included overlapping rail infrastructure, real estate, and roads.
“There are faults, and different soils. Tunnelling under existing infrastructure can be fraught with all sorts of environmental risks like slumping as well as financial liabilities and cost overruns.
“Historically it used to be a case of blast and dig and argue later about who pays but it’s not like that any more. There’s a lot more onus on contracting parties to understand risks before the contract is even signed.
ARANZ Geo stepped up a notch three years ago when Pencarrow Private Equity took a 40 per cent stake, allowing some founding shareholders to cash up, providing working capital, and establishing firmer governance.
Maloney said directors frequently assess the benefits of listing on the New Zealand Stock Exchange to raise capital.
“Whether it would achieve the same result…Throwing money at something doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get there quicker.
“It’s fine to have the technology but you also need the right market conditions
“Our growth in the mining and minerals sector has occurred in the past three years when the market has arguably been in its biggest bust period for 20 years.
“It almost needed the market to be bust before they would invest in the solutions to fix it.
“If it makes sense to accelerate growth we’ll seriously the consider the options.
“We haven’t needed to raise capital since Pencarrow came on board. Last year we invested about $6.5m in research and still remained ebit (earnings before interest and tax) positive.”
“We’re contributing to geothermal energy work with NGOs around the world, hydro dams in Turkey, transport tunnels in the EU, and water quality projects.”
ARANZ Geo has been involved in studying saltwater intrusion of California’s groundwater aquifers with Stanford University and the University of Calgary.
It is contributing to the Yusufeli dam and hydroelectric plant under construction the Coruh valley in north-east Turkey, the third highest arch dam in the world.
In Slovenia, work includes the Karavanke Tunnel design project, adding a second tunnell to the existing one.
“The geology is very complex and the initial tunnel encountered frequent strong water inflow, overbreaks and methane seeps.
“The opportunity with the new Karavanke tunnel is to test emerging technologies and move engineering geology, geotechnics and tunnelling to another level by using 3D modelling,” Maloney said.