Nova expansion plans on track

Nova Chemicals Corp.’s next major expansion remains on track for an expected spring start.

Nova Chemicals Corp.’s next major expansion remains on track for an expected spring start.

Rick Van Hemmen, Nova’s Joffre site leader, said they are in the midst of the detailed engineering development phase of the project to add a third polyethylene reactor.

The project, expected to cost $750 million to $900 million is expected to go to the corporate bosses for final approval around February.

Van Hemmen said he’s “pretty confident” the project will get approved, which means construction could start as early as March with commissioning around the fall of 2015.

Applications are in for various provincial approvals, expected early next year, he said at a Wednesday evening open house at Satinwood School, a few kilometres east of the Joffre site.

Some minor work has already begun at the site, where a new access road for construction crews is being built connecting to Freedom Road.

The peak construction force on the polyethylene expansion is expected to hit 500, including about 150 to 250 tradespeople.

About 40 to 60 per cent of project spending will happen in Central Alberta. When completed, the plant will create 25 to 35 permanent jobs and 15 to 25 contractor positions.

Van Hemmen said while the global economy has been unpredictable in recent years, the company is sticking to its game plan of securing new feedstock and stabilizing existing operations to maximize the Joffre site’s potential.

“We’ve heard an awful lot about other companies in North America who are talking about expansion in the next several years in our industry,” he said.

“We believe we’re going to be on the ground first, ahead of most of those, or all of those, other competitors with this particular project.”

Also working in the project’s favour is that Nova is in a much stronger financial position than it was three or four years ago, he added.

Since the project was announced there have been some routine questions raised in the surrounding community and typical issues such as noise, flaring and traffic from construction.

Nova is committed to ensuring noise is kept to a minimum and work is ongoing to continuously improve its noise management strategy, he said.

The new polyethylene plant is expected to churn out 950 million to 1.1 million pounds of low density polyethylene a year — boosting total plant production by about 40 per cent.

Polyethylene is used to manufacture everything from plastic bags and stretch wrap to bottles and toys.

Lacombe County Coun. Rod McDermand was among about 40 people who turned out for the open house. He has not heard any concerns from the community about the project, which will be built on the existing plant site.

Nova has long been a good corporate citizen in the area and has been good at keeping residents updated on what is going on, he said.

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