Raising the Bar – and the Standards for Heat Efficiency

Petro-Tech Heat Technology
Written by David Caldwell

In Canada’s oil and gas sector, Calgary-based Petro-Tech Heat Technology is known for its precision-constructed heaters and heat transfer units. Now, the company’s next-generation products lower emissions and increase heating efficiency like never before.

Founded in 1972 to manufacture mining equipment, Petro-Tech quickly rebranded itself to serve the growing oil field in Canada’s Prairie Provinces. “Because of the low cost associated with heating, people didn’t worry about wasting heat,” Business Development Manager Phil Sepkowski reflects.

But, with a growing shift into building and heating efficiency, Petro-Tech has found its technology in more and more demand. Petro-Tech prides itself on making the most efficient equipment humanly possible, conserving and utilizing waste heat.

Petro-Tech’s skid-mounted heat medium packages provide up to 40 MMBTUH, (million British Thermal Units per hour), fully inclusive with pumps, heat exchangers, piping and an intrinsic control panel providing all heat-related data. The company’s thermal systems utilize glycol, and its related compounds, in addition to hot oil to provide heating for buildings and equipment of all sizes.

On a smaller scale, Petro-Tech also provides all equipment involved in the heating process, including heat exchangers (both liquid- and air-cooled), boilers and reboilers. The company’s research team works both internally and with other companies to continually push the envelope of heating technology.

“There are some really, really bright engineering minds out there that have been working on this for a long time,” says Sepkowski. “We’re doing what we can in-house, and then we deal with smaller companies that are working with us to fine-tune our equipment and make it even better.”

White-hot precision
In addition to its wide array of heat-medium packages, Petro-Tech also provides process furnaces for use in the petroleum and natural gas refining process. The process requires long run-times with little shutdown, necessitating high efficiency and reliability. As in its heat medium technology, Petro-Tech prides itself on its precision engineering and building skill.

Alloy coil materials and certified welding techniques ensure high durability, while Petro-Tech’s meticulous quality-control methods guarantee full accountability. The company also utilizes PMI (positive material identification) to verify the elemental integrity of all metal components, further ensuring product integrity. Low nitrous oxide (NOx) burners reduce environmental impact, and Petro-Tech’s modular construction methods helps reduce build times.

Meeting client needs
With nearly 50 years of business experience, Petro-Tech justifiably presents itself as a precision design/build firm. Many clients, particularly subcontracted engineering firms, provide Petro-Tech with precise and meticulous specifications. Petro-Tech, in turn, creates a turnkey solution with its own in-house engineers.

In Sepkowski’s words, this degree of total control is a testament to the faith Petro-Tech’s clients place in it. “They trust us to design the equipment and ultimately provide the guarantee that the equipment’s going to function according to the parameters and conditions they require.”

A reason for this trust stems from Petro-Tech’s localization. The company’s products are assembled in its 75,000 square foot Calgary manufacturing facility, and Sepkowski estimates that between 70 and 90 percent of all parts are sourced from within Canada. With no off-shore assembly work, the company can manage every aspect of quality control and maintain its high production standards.

Many of Petro-Tech’s clients, with offices in Calgary and the surrounding area, can easily visit Petro-Tech’s facility and see their orders being fabricated and assembled with their own eyes. “A lot of equipment gets purchased offshore,” Sepkowski remarks, “so to see what’s going on with your equipment at any given time, the end user has to trust that that manufacturer is doing exactly what they’ve been asked to. In our case, they can come and personally look at it, touch it, review it.”

In addition to this personal touch, Petro-Tech provides aftermarket service as well, managing every step from fabrication to installation and subsequent field service.

Relying on people
As a proud Canadian manufacturer in a robust sector, Petro-Tech recognizes that the precision it requires depends on a talented and committed workforce. To enhance workforce cohesion, the company fosters an atmosphere of employee empowerment.

“Anybody who has any concept or idea that can affect our profitability, our performance, our quality – everyone is encouraged to come to the table with that opportunity,” Sepkowski says. “That’s the best way to recruit.” He notes that this atmosphere of empowerment has attracted many employees – including himself – to work at Petro-Tech. “Empowering people always encourages retention.”

This empowerment helps Petro-Tech remain competitive in a crowded field, ensuring it can hire the most passionate and talented workers in the industry.

The company currently designs heat-recovery systems capable of dealing with flue or exhaust gas temperatures of up to 1,200°F (650°C) and capture the heat in thermal oils, glycol mixtures, inlet, air or steam. But Petro-Tech intends to lead the way in developing super-efficient heaters. “The technology exists right now,” Sepkowski remarks, “but we’re going to build it better.”

The goal is to install this new-generation equipment into all new buildings, and retrofit existing structures to handle the new heat-efficiency standards. While it will be a long-term investment, the potential returns are exciting. “What we’ve discovered so far is there is the potential for 20 to 50 percent heating efficiency savings,” Sepkowski reports, “so it’s very, very much the way of the future – not only for our organization, but for many others.”

Petro-Tech’s new move into heat efficiency and emission reduction is well-timed. Canada’s Federal Government has pledged to make the country net emission-free by 2050. On a smaller scale, numerous provinces such as Ontario and Nova Scotia have announced the same goal. Others are even more ambitious, with British Columbia enacting that all new buildings must produce net zero emissions by 2032.

At the corporate level, large businesses such as Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), one of Canada’s largest oil and gas extractors, are also working to be net zero emitters.

Lost heat, lost value
In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, increased heating efficiency has equally obvious cost-saving benefits. “Heat equals value. It’s never been thought of that way, but it really does,” Sepkowski remarks. “Any heat can be turned into a bottom-line reduction in cost savings.”

Oil firms in western Canada produce most of Canada’s waste heat and carbon dioxide emissions. As a result, western provinces are now paying significant carbon taxes – a strong source of regional contention during the recent Federal election. Higher heat efficiency rates will also reduce carbon taxes to businesses, which Sepkowski says will be a net gain for all. “Anything that can be used to reduce that is basically going to be paying the carbon tax, or paying less of it.”

As Petro-Tech looks to the future, the company plans to move even further into precision design and manufacturing while also moving toward a more energy-efficient offering and leveraging new technologies to help customers reduce their carbon footprint. The company is taking its products to new levels of efficiencies and offering products that allow producers to meet their carbon emissions standards. As more businesses, municipalities and entire nations work to reduce emissions and improve heat efficiency standards, Petro-Tech has its sights set on becoming the leading manufacturer in this new sector.



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