NOVA Chemicals completes polyethylene and cracker expansion in Ontario, Canada

NOVA Chemicals, with production assets in Canada and in Louisiana, and owned by Mubadala Investment Co. from Abu Dhabi, announced in late December 2022 the “mechanical completion” of expanded polyethylene and cracking capacity in Sarnia, Ontario, some 65 miles north of Detroit, after several years of construction that involved 7,000 workers.

NOVA Chemicals plant in Joffre, Alberta. Image courtesy of NOVA Chemicals

“The construction phase of the growth projects is complete. Projects represent more than C$2 billion" (C$1=U.S. 0.75 cent) investment in the community, NOVA Chemicals said on Dec. 21 in a press release.

The future Rokeby Site’s startup is anticipated for the first half of 2023, it said.

Along with the construction of InterPipeline´s PDH (propane dehydrogenator) and polypropylene complex near Edmonton, Alberta, NOVA’s expansion was one of the biggest petrochemical construction projects carried out in Canada since 2019.

Pembina, another Canadian mid-stream company, was also building a PDH polypropylene plant but interrupted the project during the pandemic.

A billion pounds of plastic capacity

The new Rokeby Site will have production capacity of about a billion pounds of polyethylene per year.

The expanded cracker will feed ethylene to the new “AST2 facility, expanding the existing cracker’s current capacity” by over 50%, the company said.

“Our team is now fully focused on safely completing post-construction activities prior to starting the commissioning phase of this flagship asset,” said Rob Thompson, NOVA’s vice president of manufacturing, East.

NOVA Chemicals’ Corunna Site produces 1.8 billion pounds of ethylene and approximately 700 million pounds of co-products annually, according to the statement.

“Corunna provides feedstock to NOVA Chemicals’ Moore and St. Clair River Sites where they convert ethylene into up to 1.3 billion pounds of polyethylene per year. Ethane, a component of natural gas, is the primary feedstock for ethylene production at the Corunna Site,” it said.

The site adds 150 new permanent jobs. NOVA is the largest private employer in the Sarnia-Lambton region, in southwestern Ontario, with three manufacturing facilities.

NOVA Chemicals, headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, has 2,400 employees worldwide and is wholly owned by Mubadala Investment Company of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

About InterPipeline´s full complex startup

InterPipeline last announced in a press release in July 2022 that some production of polypropylene had started at its new complex near Edmonton, Alberta, with plans to have the complex fully running by late 2022. There has not been a new release since that time.

“A safe commissioning of our polypropylene plant is a crucial step towards commercial production of Heartland Polymers,” Jim Madro, senior vice president, petrochemicals, had said back at that time.

“The PP Plant has been producing pellets since late June with polymer grade propylene (PGP) from our storage cavern. The entire Heartland Complex remains on schedule for an integrated start-up in the third quarter of this year, at which point Heartland will begin commercial production,” according to the release from July 5, 2022, that was the company´s most recent information update related to the full startup of the complex.

Petrochemical industry in Ontario

According to, Ontario is home to one of the largest petrochemical industries, with nine of the top 15 global companies already present. Alberta has separately said it also has one of the largest petrochemical industries in Canada. NOVA is in both provinces.

Ontario, with a population of about 15 million and bordering the state of New York to the south, was home to “the first company in the world to source Marcellus Basin natural gas liquids as ethane cracker feedstock,” it said.

With 40% of the country’s total production, Ontario is at the center of Canada’s chemical manufacturing industry, according to the investOntario website. Chemical exports from Ontario were just over $13 billion worth of goods, it said.

Most petrochemical activity in Ontario takes place in three key regions: Sarnia-Lambton, Greater Toronto, which is the capital about 180 miles to the east, as well as in Niagara and Eastern Ontario, the area that borders New York.

Back in 2019 NOVA Chemicals was the object of a potential purchase but there wasn´t any conclusion of a transaction reported.

Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, a joint venture between Chevron Corp. and Phillips 66, had offered back in June 2019 to acquire Nova Chemicals Corp for more than $15 billion including debt, according to a Reuters news agency report at the time.

NOVA Chemicals’ Joffre manufacturing facility lies just east of Red Deer, Alberta. The Joffre site consists of five manufacturing facilities: three for ethylene production and two for polyethylene production.

NOVA is the largest polyethylene producer in Canada, of which just the Joffre site produces 2.2 billion pounds. Polyethylene is shipped by “rail and road to North American customers and by ship for offshore destinations,” the company said.

NOVA is also in the U.S. Gulf Coast. The Geismar, Louisiana facility annually produces approximately 1.95 billion pounds of ethylene and NOVA Chemicals share of the total capacity of the expanded plant is approximately 1.7 billion pounds per year.

In addition, the plant, located just south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, also produces 114 million pounds of polymer grade propylene, 13 million gallons per year of crude butadiene and 14 million gallons year of debutanized aromatic concentrate.

The Geismar facility produces approximately 1.95 billion pounds of ethylene and 114 million pounds of polymer grade propylene, the company said.

The company is also in the midstream in the U.S. Gulf. At Geismar, the olefins team of 129 employees is responsible for the ethane transportation business consisting of approximately 200 miles of pipelines, as well as a refinery-grade propylene splitter.

By Renzo Pipoli