Heartland Polymers has begun production of propylene monomer at a propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant in Strathcona County, Alberta.
Officials with Heartland in Calgary say the plant is now providing on-site feedstock for North America's only integrated, single-site commercial polypropylene production.
CEO Todd Karran said that as a new entrant to the market, "there is high interest in our products" and that officials "expect it will continue to grow now that we have achieved commercial production."
Heartland produced about 200 million pounds of PP in 2022 after initial production began in July, followed by the PDH plant's start-up in October. Officials said that the firm is unique to the industry, producing both polymer grade propylene (PGP) feedstock and PP product at a single site.
Heartland's PP plant — with annual production capacity of almost 1.2 billion pounds — and its cogeneration unit were commissioned earlier in 2022.
Before the PDH plant started up, the firm was making PP with PGP feedstock from parent company Inter Pipeline's natural gas liquids (NGL) business, which had been Canada's only PGP producer prior to the new Heartland PDH unit.
Officials said that this alternate feed source "remains a key aspect of Heartland's reliability, in addition to its optimal geographic location." The firm is currently making a range of homopolymer PP resins, with a plan to add random copolymers to its production schedule later in 2023.
In an interview with Plastics News, PP Sales and Marketing Director Yonas Kebede said that Heartland's new PP plant "already has run at max rates. … It's proven out."
He added that major end markets for the firm's PP output are fiber, film, biaxially oriented film and injection molding. The North American PP market is a bit oversupplied right now, according to Kebede, but should be balanced in 2024.
"Over the long term, polypropylene growth tracks higher than GDP," said Kebede, who has 30 years of industry experience, including almost 20 years with materials firm Formosa Plastics Corp. "I'm proud of our facility and integration."
He added that the new PP unit consumes 65 percent less greenhouse gases than similar global PP plants and 35 percent less than PP plants in North America. Using air cooling instead of water cooling also has an impact on the amount of water used at the Heartland site. The complex is expected to use 80 per cent less make-up water than water cooled operations.
Officials previously said that the site's rail connections to major North American shipping hubs, storage-in-transit to expedite delivery times, real-time GPS shipment tracking and geographic location means that the site is less vulnerable to extreme weather incidents that can cause downtime.
"We have good technology and we'll serve the market well," Kebede said. "It was a huge lift that we had to do to get up and running, but we showed that we could do it."