INTERVIEW: Nova sees Alberta ethane feed growing

04 October 2006 21:12  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS news)--Canada’s Nova Chemicals said on Wednesday that it is optimistic it will get more ethane to feed and expand its plants in Alberta, not only short-term from existing natural gas pipelines but also longer-term from oils sands projects and two planned new gas lines.


“The oil sands, and also the planned natural gas pipelines represent significant feedstock opportunities for us,” Val Mirosh, Nova’s president for olefins and feedstocks, told ICIS news in a telephone interview from the company’s headquarters in Calgary, Alberta. Additional feedstock can eventually translate into expansions and greenfield petrochemicals projects in the province, he said.


Upgrading of the oils sands yields as a by-product light off-gases, which can be used as feedstock for petrochemicals production, Mirosh said. There is already one project in Alberta - a propylene plant by US energy firm Williams - which uses off-gases from oil sands upgrading as a feedstock, Mirosh added..


Also important is that upgraders are being built with the right technology to take out the off-gases for petrochemicals use, instead of burning them as fuel, Mirosh said.


The feedstock opportunity from the oil sands is significant, given that current plans call for Alberta's oil sands based production to be expanded from some 1m bbl/day today to over 3m bbl/day over 10 years, he added.


Another important opportunity for additional feedstock will be two planned natural gas pipeline projects – the Alaska North Slope line and the Mackenzie Delta pipeline, Mirosh said. The Alaska line is more important for the petrochemicals industry, offering an estimated 150,000 bbl/day of ethane. This compares with Alberta’s current ethane extraction production of some 250,000 to 300,000 bbl/day.


Mirosh sees the oil sands as a more medium-term feedstock opportunity while the pipeline projects are more remote. A near-term feedstock opportunity for Alberta’s petrochemicals industry lies in the increased extraction of ethane from existing natural gas lines, he said.


Alberta’s new “Incremental Ethane Extraction Policy” as announced last week should help in boosting ethane supplies in the near-term, Mirosh said. The policy grants consumption credits to petrochemicals makers for incremental ethane use. 

Commenting on the current supply situation, Mirosh said ethane is “tight, but manageable” in Alberta. He also said that Nova is not affected by the suspension of ethylene shipments on the Cochin pipeline to the Sarnia petrochemicals hub in Ontario. Following the expansion of Nova’s Corunna flexi-cracker near Sarnia, Nova’s downstream Sarnia plants are being fully supplied from that cracker, he said.

By: Stefan Baumgarten
+1 713 525 2653

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