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Nova Chemicals claims a first in using Marcellus Shale ethane

By: Michael Lauzon

December 18, 2013

Nova Chemicals Corp. said it will be the first plastics company to use ethane from the Marcellus Shale Basin to convert to ethylene.

“We will be introducing our first molecules from Marcellus literally today or tomorrow to our Corunna, [Ontario] cracker,” said Nova senior vice president Chris Bezaire in a phone interview late afternoon Dec. 18.

Nova has been accepting delivery of ethane from Marcellus deposits in Pennsylvania and storing it in former underground salt caverns under Sarnia. It is increasing the amount of ethane it uses to 100 percent in its Corunna, Ontario, ethylene plant to lower production costs. The Corunna cracker conversion will be complete in the first quarter of 2014. Also planned for 2014-2018 is capacity expansion of the Corunna cracker by 20 percent from the current 1.8 billion pounds per year nameplate.

Nova announced in a Dec. 18 news release an update of several projects underway. Besides the cracker conversion, it is debottlenecking low density polyethylene capacity in its new LDPE line in the nearby Moore plant. Also in Moore, it is retrofitting its high density PE line. The two PE projects should expand PE capacity at the site by a total of 300 million to 400 million pounds per year, Bezaire estimated from Nova’s Pittsburgh headquarters office.

The cracker and PE projects could cost more than $300 million, stated Nova CEO Randy Woelfel in a news release.

The higher PE production levels will roughly track Nova’s boosted ethylene input. Bezaire said Nova has worked out ethane supply arrangements with Marcellus producers and a pipeline operator from Pennsylvania to the Sarnia area.

The Sarnia expansions will come on stream in the 2014-2018 period.

Nova also said it continues to evaluate sites for a second technology facility to focus on its Advanced Sclairtech PE. Possible locations include Ontario and the U.S. Gulf Coast. It expects to have that facility running by 2020.

Nova continues to build a new LLDPE plant in Joffre, Alberta, and expects it be finished in the first quarter of 2016.