BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Officials of NOVA Chemicals Corporation (NOVA) were excited recently as they announced the official start-up of their latest world-class addition to the Joffre site.
The linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) gas phase reactor project has been underway for a number of years, part of the Reactor 3 (R3) umbrella project that encompassed the reactor and a furnace upgrade. The LLDPE reactor project is also known as the Polyethylene 1 (P1) Expansion project.
“When you have a mega project that costs billions of dollars and takes more than three years to build, it’s always exciting to come to the end,” said Joffre Site Leader Rick Van Hemmen.
“Most of the formal construction was complete near the end of August, and then we entered a much more intensive phase of our commissioning activities. Now that we’ve been able to get the reactor running and the other associated equipment, it is the start of us being able to see the value of this very extensive investment.”
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.
With the new reactor up and running, there is an addition of LLDPE production capacity to the tune of close to one billion lbs. per year – giving the company total polyethylene production capacity of approximately five billion lbs.
This is the first new LLDPE reactor in the Americas in over a decade.
The new capacity allows NOVA Chemicals to meet the growing demand for their customers, and to continue to bring a high-quality product into the global marketplace.
“The new supply of LLDPE from our PE1 Expansion Project will enhance NOVA Chemicals’ position as a leading polyethylene supplier in the Americas, helping our customers grow and succeed in their businesses,” said Senior Vice President, Polyethylene Business Chris Bezaire.
Van Hemmen said the completion of the new reactor is a significant milestone for NOVA and helps to solidify their place in the market as a high-quality producer of butane polyethylene products.
“It’s starting to introduce the output of all this great work with the output of the polyethylene to the market place. We certainly have a long way to go in terms of fully commissioning and testing the reactor and getting it up to full rates, but it is clearly a significant milestone for us.
“We can prove the equipment is fundamentally working and now we will go through the regular optimization challenges that come with getting a plant started up,” he said.
Van Hemmen explained that at peak employment, the R3/P1 project brought approximately 800 jobs to the site, and that the main contractor, Ledcor, paid out approximately $145 million in wages, about 35% of which was paid to local workers.
He explained that equates to nearly $50 million paid out in wages to local workers through the duration of the project.
“We see roughly 60 additional positions attached to this expansion, a combination of permanent and long-term contract positions allocated to that unit. That is everything from operations, maintenance, operational support and more,” he added.
He said NOVA is looking forward to making sure the reactor reaches full capacity this year.
“I was on site when they first got the pelletizer running to make our final pelletized product and it was exciting to see. It was a very positively-charged atmosphere when we activated that pelletizer and people were collecting little samples of our first production from that new reactor with big smiles on their faces,” he said.
“What is important beyond the smiles and how people are feeling about this is the product quality. The quality looks quite good and we’re already getting a pull from our customers for the new product. We just have to continue to align this facility out and satisfy our customers.”