Sign up for our free weekday bulletin.

New Nova plant rising up as project hits midway point

Published on

Troy Shantz

Almost one million work hours have gone into the Nova Chemical expansion in St. Clair Township already and many more are coming, the company says.

The $2.2-billion, four-year construction project, which includes both an upgrade and new polyethylene plant, is about to enter its third year.

“It’s extremely busy on site,” said Nova spokesperson Meaghan Lawrence. “Our contract workforce and employees continue to work very diligently to progress the new Rokeby site and the expansion of the Corunna cracker.”

About 800 skilled tradespeople are currently on the job and most of them were sourced locally, the company said.

The pace picked up this summer when 236,000 tonnes of gravel and 4,200 cubic metres of concrete were laid down over 3,450 piles hammered deep into the ground, the company said.

Three times as much concrete was poured again this fall, while the skeleton of a reactor structure rises on the skyline east of Highway 40.

What isn’t assembled by workers onsite is arriving as prefabricated units. Nine times this year, massive loads of new components have crawled to Rokeby Line, bringing local traffic to a standstill and transfixing curious onlookers.

Most recently, police and support crews this month escorted four enormous columns, the largest weighing 313,000 kilograms, or as much as 80 Asian elephants.

The tallest of the columns towers 165 feet (50 metres), which is as high as the clearance height of the Blue Water Bridge.

“We do have deliveries… nearly every week now. They might be coming from local fabrication shops or other spots,” Lawrence said.

The columns, for example, were made in Italy, shipped across the ocean, and unloaded at a St. Clair River dock.

The Nova project itself has two parts.

The new plant will produce up to one billion pounds of polyethylene a year. Polyethylene is the world’s most common plastic and is used in everything from sandwich bags and cling wrap to bottles and coatings.

The second part is an expansion next door at the existing Corunna “cracker” unit, which will provide the ethylene feedstock to the new plant.

The cracker expansion will boost the unit’s capacity by 50%, making it one of the largest in North America, the company has said.

Nova was already the region’s largest private employer with 1,000 permanent employees and 300 contractors. The new project will create about 150 permanent jobs and 750 more through maintenance, fabrication and other support roles.

Nova’s three Sarnia-Lambton facilities generate more than $144 million in employee salaries and benefits annually.

To view an aerial video of the plant’s progress this year visit

Cranes hover over the new Nova Chemicals plant rising from the ground in St. Clair Township.
Troy Shantz

More like this