The last few years have been big for Alberta-based Astro Thermal Tec Ltd. Not only did the company recently mark its five-year anniversary, but it also has received multiple honors at the Oil & Gas Awards. After being recognized as Manufacturer of the Year for 2014, the company is once again a finalist in the category for 2015, and General Manager Lloyd Burt says the accolades have resulted in a lot of exposure to potential new customers throughout North America.
“It’s definitely helped to get our name out there in the marketplace,” Burt says.
Of course, such honors are not simply given away, but are the result of a superior product and service. Astro Thermal Tec has provided both for numerous customers throughout the oilfield industry, and Burt says the company continues to be known for providing products that meet and exceed the requirements of its customers in the field.
Astro Thermal Tec specializes in manufacturing and providing large-volume, high-efficiency industrial water heaters, primarily used in the heating of frac water used in the oil and gas sector. “Our customers primarily come out of the oilfield, and a typical customer requires anywhere from two to six heating units,” Burt says.
However, the company is quick to point out that its heaters’ portability and reliability make them equally suitable for use in virtually any application that requires large amounts of hot water. It says these applications include high-rise buildings, factories and mines.
The company was founded in 2010 by President Syl Tateson, who was inspired to look for a more effective and efficient means of heating water after spending many years in the industry.
“Using steam from boilers is very inefficient, especially heating fluid with steam,” Tateson said in a statement. “In 20-something years of doing this, I thought there had to be a better way of doing this that was more efficient for everybody, so I got on the Internet and looked at all these different ways of heating fluid.”
Tateson joined forces with Burt, whose more than 40 years of experience with boilers and other industrial applications as an electrician gave them the expertise needed to redesign a water heater from the ground up. After four years of research and development, Astro Thermal Tec was formed to bring these radical new heater designs to the industry.
No matter where or for what purpose its heaters are utilized, Astro Thermal Tec’s heaters are often the preferred choice of customers because they offer superior efficiency in the field. “Our greatest strength has to be in the efficiency of our heating,” Burt says.
Thanks in large part to the patented exhaust heat collection system on all of its heaters, Astro Thermal Tec’s non-pressurized water heaters can operate at 95 percent plus efficiency. Burt says this puts the company’s products at a level far above the efficiency that other manufacturers can claim to offer.
“This is amazing when a lot of companies claim 87 or 90 percent, but that’s just the efficiency of their burner, not their actual heat transfer,” he says.
“Our technologically advanced burners apply heat directly to the water in the sealed, non-pressurized vessel, increasing heating efficiency to 95 percent-plus,” the company says. “Our patented waste heat collection system captures exhaust and transfers it into the water as an additional heating element, decreasing emissions and further increasing heating efficiency.”
The efficiency of Astro Thermal Tec’s heaters not only helped it win Manufacturer of the Year for 2014 at the Oil & Gas Awards, but also made it a finalist for the VZ Environmental Award for Excellence in Environmental Stewardship. Judges at the Oil & Gas Awards praised Astro Thermal Tec for creating an innovative product that addresses multiple environmental impacts.
A Versatile Product
Among the other advantages the company says its water heaters offer is the versatility to be utilized in a variety of situations. For one thing, their physical size is much more manageable than heaters made by the company’s competitors. Burt says the average water heater built by Astro Thermal Tec is between 12,000 and 16,000 pounds, compared to up to 80,000 pounds for the average heater built by competitors. This makes Astro Thermal Tec’s heaters much more portable because they are easier to haul and don’t threaten to damage roads like a much heavier heater would.
The company’s versatility extends to the types of fuel that can power the heaters, with each model easily convertible between diesel, propane and natural gas. The company’s heaters also are more environmentally friendly, producing less carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions than the industry standard. The non-pressurized vessels are safer and don’t require annual regulatory inspections or operating certification requirements.
Not only are the company’s heaters more portable than competing products, but they also offer superior safety, as well. Because Astro Thermal Tec’s heaters are non-pressurized and feature a fully enclosed flame, they are a much safer option for operators.
The other major advantage Astro Thermal Tec offers its customers is the fact that its heaters are made in North America, completely designed to withstand harsh winter conditions. Burt says the fact that many of the components the company uses are manufactured in the United States also gives Astro Thermal Tec a greater opportunity for exposure to potential customers here.
Burt says the oilfield market has been very good to Astro Thermal Tec, but the company is looking to diversify over the next few years to reach an even broader customer base. “The biggest challenge is exploring other industries and going after a customer base outside the oilfield,” Burt says.
The company is looking into building smaller units that can provide outputs below 6 million BTUs for even greater versatility, and Burt says it is hoping to move into the pulp and paper industry as well as provide hot water heating systems for large buildings. Even though the energy sector has taken a hit from falling oil prices recently, Burt says Astro Thermal Tec is confident that its products give it the edge to move out into new markets as well as maintain its position in the energy sector when conditions improve.