Words of ‘cautious optimism’ fly on possible NOVA expansion

Spokesperson calls clearing of soil and brush 'another positive step forward'

Reports of NOVA Chemicals beginning a process of clearing land said to be the site of a proposed $2-billion polyethylene plant shouldn’t be seen as a firm commitment by the company.

But it’s still a potentially good news story.

As recently as two weeks ago, an engineer with deep roots in the industry, made the comment to Lambton Shield that at least fits a “go” scenario.

“Saying no is a quick answer,” said the source. “Yes takes longer, so the longer it takes to get there, the more likely it is to occur.”

Yet caution is still not a bad choice at this point.

Meaghan Kreeft, a NOVA spokesperson, called Sarnia-Lambton the “base case” for the project, which would be built on land just south of the company’s existing Corunna cracker, a unit that makes ethylene, which is used in the manufacture of polyethylene.

A final investment decision is still expected to be announced before the end of 2017.

In the meantime, industry observers and politicians remain hopeful.

One is Ray Curran, who heads the Sarnia Construction Association, who has said the clearing of land is a positive sign.

Steve Arnold, mayor of St. Clair Township, the municipality where the plant would be built, is equally upbeat, especially given the impact on the economy should the final decision to invest be a positive one.

NOVA has not been specific on any job potential but it has said that such a project would be tied to an expansion of the Corunna site.

In the meantime, the company is taking steps to make sure a project would move forward smoothly, including applying to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for approval to lengthen turning lanes on Highway 40 in the area of Rokeby and Petrolia Lines.

Assuming approvals are forthcoming, the project would start production in 2021, the company has said.

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