The nose will know; Nova says natural gas feedstock to cut smell from the plant

PIPELINE PROGRESS  Workers are completing eight kilometers of new pipeline which will carry ethane from the Marcellus Shale project to Nova Chemical. The lower cost feedstock is said to be a “game changer” for the company and could mean a new $1.5 billion plant will be built in Corunna. Officials also say it will lower greenhouse gas emissions coming from the plant.

PIPELINE PROGRESS Workers are completing eight kilometers of new pipeline which will carry ethane from the Marcellus Shale project to Nova Chemical. The lower cost feedstock is said to be a “game changer” for the company and could mean a new $1.5 billion plant will be built in Corunna. Officials also say it will lower greenhouse gas emissions coming from the plant.

Nova Chemical officials say your nose will notice the changes taking place at the Corunna plant.

Nova is in the middle of a $250 million upgrade, including a pipeline project, which will see the company begin to use liquefied natural gas from the Marcellus Shale areas in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The method to extract the natural gas, called fracking, is controversial and has been linked to deteriorating water and soil quality where the natural gas is pulled from the ground using chemicals. But Nova Director, Tom Thompson, says the liquefied natural gas taken from the shale will have environmental benefits here.

“Our greenhouse gas emissions go down, our nitrogen dioxide levels go down and our sulphur dioxide levels go down significantly,” says Thompson. He estimates there could be as much as a 40 percent drop in emissions of sulphur dioxide with the change.

Sulphur emissions are the main reason for that sour smell which often comes from chemical producing plants. With lower sulphur dioxide emissions, officials say neighbours will notice the difference.

“The odour associated with the plant is going to go down because we are eliminating a heavier (crude oil) compound,” says John Thompson, Nova’s Environmental Manager. “There will be a reduction in the odour.”

Nova officials, who recently held and open house in Corunna to talk about the progress of the upgrade, say even if a new polyethylene plant is added, the odours will be significantly lower.

“The changes happening to Nova’s plant will mean overall emissions will be going down,” says Greg Cooks of the engineering firm Stantec.  “Adding another plant doesn’t make much change in the overall air quality because of the physical separation of the two plants,” says Cooks adding the company is using state of the art equipment as well, which will also keep emissions well below the provincial guidelines.

A decision on a new $1.5 billion polyethylene plant, which would be built behind the existing facility on Petrolia Line, is expected in the second half of this year. If it is approved, construction would start in 2017.

For now, Director Thompson says the company is completing the eight kilometers of 10 inch pipe to carry the volumes of ethane from the Marcellus Shale deposits which Nova needs to replace the crude oil it now uses in production.

“We’re hoping to start flowing gas in the summer.”

“It’s a game changer of us,” says Thompson. “It gives us a competitive feedstock” which he adds drives down their costs significantly.

-Heather Wright

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