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Innovation Profile: Don Berggren helps freeze out energy sector GHGs

  • Name: Don Berggren
  • Residence: Toronto, Ontario
  • Occupation: President, Berggren Chilling Systems

Ontario-based Berg Chilling Systems is a supplier to Western Canadian oil and natural gas producers who's innovating to help industry reduce GHGs.

Ontario-based Berg Chilling Systems Inc. is looking to play a key role in the low-carbon 21st century Canadian oil and natural gas industry. They’ve developed an innovative, portable well-head gas processing solution that they say significantly reduces flare gas emissions.

“Our technology can help achieve the energy sector’s ultimate goal of a carbon-neutral barrel of oil,” says company president, Don Berggren.

Not only does the new technology help lower GHGs, says Berggren, it can help increase the profitability and output of wells, including those nearing the end of production.

Don Berggren and his team at Berg Chilling Systems are an Ontario company that supplies equipment and environmental innovations used by Western Canadian oil and natural gas producers.

Berg Chilling Systems is a family-owned business founded in 1972 by Berggren’s father. For 45 years, the company has designed, manufactured and delivered custom refrigeration and process cooling solutions to a wide array of industries around the world. Its products are exported to 50 countries and to every continent except Antarctica, “which really shouldn’t need our systems,” quips Berggren.

Today, the company employs more than 100 people in two Toronto locations – one is a manufacturing facility, the other a service division. Among its customers Berg counts: naval and coast guard services, petrochemical companies, food processors, bottling plants, dairies, recreational ice facilities, and Canada’s oil and natural gas industry.

“We are also a critical piece of the manufacturing sector. Most need cooling or temperature control for their processes. Without it many products simply wouldn’t reach the market,” Berggren notes. “In auto assembly plants, for example, the tips of robotic welding equipment must be cooled to ensure optimal performance.”

The oil and natural gas sector is a recent addition to Berg’s client roster, yet it is one that has helped the company drive further growth. Berg provides custom-engineered chilling, pumping and heat-recovery equipment for use in oil and natural gas production facilities. They’re one of 1,570 Ontario-based companies that provided $3.9 billion in supplies and services to Canada’s oil sands sector in 2016.

“Our technology can help achieve the energy sector’s ultimate goal of a carbon-neutral barrel of oil.”

Berg is also driving environmental innovation through its oil and natural gas product line-up. In 2012, GTUIT LLC, a well-site gas processor based in Billings, Montana, approached Berg looking for help with the reliability and function of existing refrigeration units. Because of Berg’s extensive experience gained through work across a wide variety of industries, the company was able to take a completely new approach to the challenge and helped perfect a game-changing, clean technology solution to the wellhead gas challenge.

Berg partnered with GTUIT to develop the Wellhead Gas Conditioning System, a trailer-mounted portable technology that can strip out natural gas liquids (NGLs) and dramatically reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by chilling, capturing and storing them, rather than burning them off through on-site flare stacks (flaring) that create GHG emissions. Stored gases can then be used for power generation, reintroduced to the pipeline or used to increase production.

The first of these new systems was delivered to site in June, 2013. “It was time to put our money where our mouth was, says Berggren. “Within an hour, natural gas liquids were being collected. I was on the phone to the client operator at the time and he sounded as if he was three feet off the ground with excitement. It was an awesome moment.”

Berg has delivered 29 more to GTUIT-operated sites in the Bakkan Oil Field across North Dakota and Montana. To date they have captured over 42 million gallons of NGLs.

The scalability and mobility of the Wellhead Gas Conditioning System works well in the tight oil arena where wells produce vigorously in the beginning then taper off. “The dry gases can be used to add lift allowing more oil to be produced while reducing additional constituents like water that the energy sector wants to limit or eliminate from the process,” notes Berggren. “Build-in flexibility allows an operator to disconnect and move a system quickly and have it working on another site within a day,” notes Berggren.

“When the energy sector is booming it drives innovation, stimulates creativity and benefits other areas and industries across the country, including Ontario’s manufacturers.”

In addition to their given purpose, these systems have also helped eliminate the need for many of the diesel generators that power well-site facilities and equipment, especially those in remote locations that are unable to connect to the grid. “Bringing in a truck every couple of days to deliver diesel to a site where fuel is being flared-off is ironic when you think about it,” says Berggren. “Our solution is helping to reduce site-dependence on diesel and, as a result, reduce overall carbon footprint.”

Developing the technology was truly a team effort, says Berggren. “We worked closely with our client, GTUIT, to deliver a product that is reliable, dependable and profitable for all, including the environment. It is a true triple bottom line solution.”

The company is currently courting customers in the Middle East, Africa and South America. “With 30 units in the field in the U.S, the system is well proven and low-risk for producers,” he says.

Berggren is also optimistic about installations with Canada’s oil producers as the industry recovers from the current slowdown. “When the energy sector is booming it drives innovation, stimulates creativity and benefits other areas and industries across the country, including Ontario’s manufacturers,” says Berggren. “There is a natural synergy between the two provinces and it would be great to develop it even further, because a lot of jobs rely on that synergy. When Alberta is busy, we are all busy.”

Berggren remembers fondly working side-by-side with his father at the company to earn his way through university. He continues to value to people with whom he works on a daily basis. “We are only as good as our people and we have a great team. There is a tremendous sense of pride in the products we produce and deliver. Every piece of machinery that leaves the premises has our name on it so we ensure it runs right. There are systems that we delivered in the 70s that still perform today,” he says.