NOVA’s outlook upbeat

By Paul Morden, from  www.theobserver    The Observer

Nova Chemicals is enjoying record earnings and considering ambitious growth plans, including a possible new plant in Sarnia-Lambton.

While announcing the company generated $538 million in profits in the first nine months of 2011, chief executive officer Randy Woelfel said Wednesday, “Our industry may be growing more slowly, but it is still growing.”

Earlier this year, Nova announced it is exploring the possibility of a new world-scale polyethylene plant in Sarnia-Lambton by 2012. It’s also considering a new plant in Alberta.

“By the middle of 2012,” Woelfel said Wednesday, “we should have additional details on the timing and scope of the various growth projects.”

During a conference call held to announce the company’s third quarter earnings, he said, “We have record earnings so far in 2011, along with strong cash generation and that positions us well to move forward with our ambitious growth plans.”

The company also said Wednesday its debt has dropped below $1 billion for the first time in the history of Nova Chemicals as a standalone company.

Woelfel also spoke about how 2011 has been “an extraordinarily challenging year for maintenance turnarounds at our facilities.”

Each of its olefin and polyethylene facilities were brought down for some period of non-routine maintenance since May, he said.

That included Nova facilities in Chemical Valley.

“We are working through one startup operational issue at Corunna, with an expectation of a modest delay in our original on-streaming timing,” Woelfel said.

But, he added, “We’ve now caught up from the backlog of work that had been deferred over the past several years, and will now return to a more normal turnaround pattern in the future.”

The company has been revamping its Corunna cracker so it can use up to 100% natural gas liquids as its feedstock.

“This construction work included tie-ins for future equipment so that we should not have to take Corunna down again to implement the remaining capital work,” Woelfel said.

Nova recently signed agreements to buy and transport natural gas liquids from the Marcellus shale basin in the eastern U.S.

“We are very excited to be the first company to sign definitive agreements to begin moving Marcellus shale ethane north to Sarnia, Ont., by the middle of 2013,” Woelfel said.

“This game-changing project will help convert Corunna into a more viable, robust business platform.”

Nova Chemicals has three plant sites in Sarnia-Lambton that employ about 900 people.

Along with high profits, the company has enjoyed a good safety record in 2011, Woelfel said.

“Year-to-date, our safety statistics are the best the company has ever had.”

Nova Chemicals, headquartered in Calgary, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the International Petroleum Investment Company of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Observer Article ID# 3363758

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