BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Officials with NOVA Chemicals were in Red Deer last week to share an update on where the company was at with their Polyethylene 1 (P1) Expansion Project, part of the greater R3 Project at the Joffre Site.
The event was hosted by the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, but was intended to educate members of the Central Alberta community affected by the project, directly and indirectly, including Blackfalds and Lacombe.
The project officially began in 2013 and has made significant impacts in local economies, creating jobs and opportunities to move forward with development, officials have said.
“That project has gone relatively well and we are at the stage of the project where it is mechanically complete,” said NOVA Chemicals Project Manager Ernie Tromposch.
“We demobilized our main construction contractor, Ledcor, at the end of September and since they’ve left we have moved into the commission and start-up phase of our project.”
Currently, NOVA has employees working on controls and systems to ensure everything in the facility is functioning as designed.
The R3/P1 Expansion Project included an expansion of the existing site by adding a third polyethylene reactor known as R3. This reactor allows for a higher production of the polyethylene, which is exported to be used in items such as trash bags and liners, food packaging and collation shrink products.
During the presentation to the Chamber, Tromposch explained how the three-year construction process impacted local economies, brought approximately 800 jobs to the site at peak employment and will continue to remain a strong presence in Central Alberta.
He said Ledcor had paid out approximately $145 million in wages, with about 35% of those employees being local residents to either Red Deer, Blackfalds or Lacombe.
“That equates to roughly $50 million flowing to local residents who worked on our construction site,” he said.
“For folks who travelled to work here, a high number of them stayed in the surrounding area, renting apartments, staying in hotels or motels, buying meals and even purchasing vehicles in the area. All of that has been a great spin-off of this expansion project.”
He explained that through NOVA Chemicals and their associated project partners, hundreds of employees were able to move through apprenticeships towards journeyman certificates over the past three years, creating what Tromposch described as, “Quite a legacy.”
Another legacy aspect of the project was the associated creation of the NOVA Chemicals Community Nature Trail. This trail includes 5 kms of looped trails, picnic areas, reforestation and and interpretive signage about the natural area the trails encompass.
As part of the P1 Expansion project, the NOVA Chemicals rail yards were expanded and during this design process, the Nature Trail was incorporated near the rail yards as an example of how industrial development can coincide with safe environmental practices.
Part of the natural area incorporated into the Community Nature Trail is also used for neighbouring farms to allow cattle to graze.
Although much of the P1 Expansion project has been completed, there is still ongoing maintenance work on site.
“Another important part of this project is a furnace refurbishment at the E2 (ethylene) plant, which helps to address some liability issues and address two major concerns, being air emissions and noise pollution,” Tromposch explained.
“That furnace work and the rest of the P1 Expansion Project are part of a larger strategy we call the NOVA 2020 Growth Strategy, which has been rolled out in time with our sister plant in Sarnia, Ontario.”
He added the P1 Expansion/R3 Project and all it encompasses has made an impact in the Central Alberta economy, and has created approximately 50 new permanent job positions at the Joffre site. Tromposch said he expects another approximate 150 jobs that will be created as a spin-off to supporting the new site.