Rock Solid Cold Storage

Bergfrost managing director Símin Pauli Sivertsen (Maria Olsen Photo)

With an environmentally friendly power generation enabling it to consume 20 percent less energy compared to its competition, Bergfrost is one of the ecologically soundest, safest and largest cold stores in the Nordic Seas region.  

Fuglafjørður-based cold storage facility Bergfrost is not merely one of the largest of its kind in the Northeast Atlantic. It also ranks amongst the most environmentally friendly in the entire area, with half of its power generated from renewable sources of energy.

Regardless of the fact that it uses a complex of mountain tunnels for cold storage, a giant cold store like Bergfrost needs huge amounts of electric power, about half of which in the Faroe Islands is produced from water and wind, with the other half generated through power plants run by fuel oil.

Mind you, electricity does not come cheap in the Faroe Islands.

“The price per kilowatt hour appears to be higher here than anywhere else in Europe,” said Bergfrost managing director Símin Pauli Sivertsen. “On this particular point, we’re at a competitive disadvantage. By the way, we have benchmarked our electricity consumption against other Faroe-based cold stores and found that we use about 20 percent less electricity.”

The Bergfrost facility is located inside a tunnel system at the foot of the 571-meter high mountain Borgin that towers above the main harbor area of Fuglafjørður, perfectly situated between the Pelagos freezing plant and the Havsbrún fishmeal, fish oil and feed factory.

The facility has earned itself a strong reputation as a reliable, high-quality cold store with a level of operational stability that is beyond outstanding due to the natural insulation offered by massive layers of solid rock.

The idea behind the tunnels that eventually became the Bergfrost cold store originates some 35-40 years back. In 1993, construction material was needed to expand one of Port of Fuglafjørður’s harbor facilities, about 100 meters away from the Borgin mountain. The cost of purchasing and trucking rock from a quarry to the land reclamation site was estimated to equal the cost of excavating and transporting rock from the building of a new tunnel in the near neighborhood. Thus a plan was developed for the commercial use of the tunnels, and the rest of history, with Bergfrost opening for business in 1996.

Partial view of Bergfrost office building by the Coldstore Terminal in Fuglafjørður, a stone throw away from the entrance to the cold store (Maria Olsen Photo).

The safety of the Bergfrost facility is underscored in that it’s extremely well protected and won’t be damaged by the onslaught of bad weather, for example, as it’s located inside the mountain.

“Our roof and walls are the mountain rock itself ,” Mr. Sivertsen pointed out. “These are many meters thick, and in the unlikely event of a prolonged power failure, even a total collapse of the refrigeration system, the cold store will keep a temperature of minus 18 degrees centigrade for a long time, likely a whole month. Short-time power failures have no real effect whatsoever on the operating temperatures; an hour-long outage will not cause the temperatures to change even one degree centigrade.

As for fire safety, with electronic installations housed outside the tunnels, the only objects at accidental risk of catching fire are power cables, lights and fan blowers; and such fires would only be limited and unlikely to cause any serious damage.

Forklifts handling cold storage cargo (Maria Olsen Photo).

In recent years, Bergfrost has completed two major expansions to increase its capacity to more than 25,000 tonnes, making it one of the largest cold storage facilities in the entire Nordic Seas region. This upgrade presents new opportunities, Mr. Sivertsen noted.

“With this added capacity, it’s now possible for freezing plants and domestic and foreign fishing vessels to store larger quantities of frozen goods in the Faroe Islands. This is a great advantage when it comes to, for example, products destined for the Russian Federation, the Faroe Islands’ largest trading partner.”

Moving goods inside the cold storage tunnels (Maria Olsen Photo).

Mr. Sivertsen added: “Up until now, some clients have often had to keep their goods stored at facilities overseas due to lack of capacity here. And because of the still ongoing trade dispute between Russia and the EU, whenever goods stored in Rotterdam have been due for delivery to Russia, those goods have had to be transported back to the Faroes before final shipment to Russia — quite a cumbersome and expensive process. With our increased capacity, that issue is becoming less severe.”

Volatility associated with annually fluctuating catch quotas remains a challenge for much of the fish industry. The Faroe Islands’ total cold storage capacity, however, doesn’t match demand at peak seasons and so, inevitably, some tonnage has to be stored overseas.

“Pelagic fisheries are seasonal, but the products are sold year round and cold storage is needed for space and time,” Mr. Sivertsen said.