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$3-billion NOVA Chemical plant only weeks from start-up

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Cathy Dobson

Within weeks, Nova Chemical’s new $3-billion polyethylene plant on Rokeby Line in St. Clair Township will start production, successfully completing Ontario’s largest private sector greenfield investment in over 35 years.

“Everything is built, we’re circulating hydrocarbon, we’ve done our commissioning activities…,” says Rob Thompson, Nova’s VP of Manufacturing East. “We’re really happy with the progress; we just need to get the feedstock there.”

The new plant’s feedstock will come from Nova’s Corunna plant on Petrolia Line that had an unplanned maintenance shutdown Aug. 23. Once repairs are made on the Petrolia Line facility in two to three weeks, the new plant on Rokeby will go into production.

The multi-billion-dollar polyethylene facility will make plastic pellets for the manufacture of a wide range of plastic products and will have the capacity to produce approximately one billion pounds of polyethylene plastic a year.

Canadians are slowly decreasing some plastic uses, such as grocery bags, but many markets remain highly dependent on plastic use, said Thompson.

“In the developing world, the thirst for plastics is off the charts,” he said. 

The Rokeby facility is adding about 140 full-time positions to Nova’s local workforce, which is now pegged at 1,150 employees, Thompson said. And it is creating about 30 more contract jobs.

The new plant means Nova Chemical has four facilities in Sarnia-Lambton and a corporate office on Modeland Road. It is the largest private sector employer in the area, Thompson said.

The newest site, located just south of Nova’s Corunna plant, has state-of-the-art flare technology and safety instrument systems, and uses the cleanest furnaces available, Thompson said.

“A world-class facility has been built in this community,” he said during a presentation to about 50 members of Sarnia’s Golden K Kiwanis club Tuesday.

The new plant required 12.3 million man hours to build and employed 7,500 employees and contractors during its five-year construction period. Part of the project involved planting 2,100 trees as a gift to St. Clair Township, Thompson noted.

NOVA Chemicals announced in 2022 that its second “AST2” facility and the third phase of the Corunna Cracker Expansion Project have each reached mechanical completion. (Submitted Photo)

At the same time, the Corunna site has also been expanded so that its capacity to produce ethylene is increased 50% and it is able to provide feed to the new polyethylene plant.

Thompson also outlined the Nova’s corporate commitment to environmental improvement and recycling.

Three months ago, the company announced it has entered into a partnership with Plastic Energy to explore the feasibility of a pyrolysis-driven advanced recycling in Sarnia.

If it goes ahead, it would be the largest facility of its kind in Canada, Thompson said. “It’s our first investment in the chemical advanced recycling side. If it goes, it will be here locally.” It’s not known when that decision will be made.

Already, Nova is building a mechanical recycling facility in Indiana that is expected to produce 100 million pounds by 2026. 

“We’re really excited about that announcement,” he said, “and I would say it’s the first of probably many announcements.”


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