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Another ‘green’ plant about to rise in Chemical Valley

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Troy Shantz

A California biochemical company is finding Sarnia’s climate just right for business.

Origin Materials has begun preparatory work on a $31.4-million (CDN) pioneer plant at 1265 Vidal St. on land currently owned by Arlanxeo Canada.

City council approved a rezoning application and Official Plan amendment for the 2.1-acre property last week.

John Bissell
Jayson Carpenter Photo

Origin co-founder and CEO John Bissell said the plant will be built as modules in various sites around Canada and the U.S. and shipped here for assembly, like an expensive Lego kit.

Environmental work is already underway at the site and the plant should be operational by mid-2019, he said.

Hiring has also begun. While an exact number of jobs isn’t known the plant is expected to create a “few dozen” permanent positions, he said.

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“One of the reasons why we picked Sarnia was because the labour force is highly skilled and knows how to do exactly the kind of stuff we’re doing,” Bissell told The Journal last year.

The Origin site is just west of the two-year-old BioAmber plant between Vidal Street and the St. Clair River. Like BioAmber, it will turn organic waste into the building blocks of plastic.

“Broadly speaking, we’re going to be converting different sources of biomass … into chemical products,” Bissell said.

The company has a patented process that uses wood chips, wheat straw and corn stalks to make a liquid compound called CMF, or chloromethylfurfural.

CMF is used to make PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, which until now has been petroleum-based. PET is widely used by the food and beverage industry to make water bottles, soft drink bottles and other packaging.

It’s anticipated the Sarnia pioneer plant will make 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes of CMF-related product a year, starting with a feedstock of wood waste.

Last year, the world’s two largest bottled water companies, Nestle and Danone, formed an alliance with Origin Materials to help develop an entirely bio-based bottle.

Origin started in Sarnia with a $6-million pilot plant at the Western University Research Park.

The new Vidal Street site is on land once owned by the Polymer Rubber Corporation, the Crown corporation that when established in 1942 gave birth to the Chemical Valley.



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