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‘It’s a game changer:’ Calgary company plans to build $5.6B petrochemical plant in Prince George

The plant will provide up to 1,000 direct jobs, 6,000 indirect

A new petrochemical plant is coming to Prince George that's set to provide up to 1,000 permanent jobs.

West Coast Olefins of Calgary announced today (July 24) it’s secured a 300-acre site in the BCR Industrial area in Prince George to build a $5.6 billion petrochemical project.

“This will be the biggest project the city has ever seen,” says West Coast Olefins president and CEO Ken James, at an announcement at the Courtyard Marriot Hotel today (July 24). 

Once fully operational, the project will create up to 1,000 permanent highly skilled jobs, while several thousands of workers will be required to support construction effort over a three-year period.

James says about 6,000 indirect jobs could potentially be created in the region. The project itself would include a world-scale ethylene plant and polyethylene facility.

“Polyethylene is plastic,” explains James. “It’s produced as a molten solid and then they squeeze it through a die and it comes out like spaghetti and then there’s a knife that goes and cuts it into little tiny pellets and that’s how it’s shipped.”

The majority of the polyethylene project would be shipped to Asian markets.

James says tens of millions of dollars in sustaining capital investment will also be required each year to support the facility.

“We have been working on this project for about a year and have been working closely with the community for the past six months to gauge whether there was sufficient interest,” says James, adding that there was an outstanding business case for Prince George.

“We look at a community this size, the education facilities, the river, the rail, the industrial park and a community that wants the jobs - that is a huge piece of it today,” says James of the city’s qualifications for the project.  “You cannot force a project into a community, not in today’s day and age.”

The overall project will include:

  • An NGL Recovery Plant to recover ethane, propane, butane, and natural gas condensate from Enbridge’s West Coast Pipelines.
  • An Ethylene Plant to produce one million tonnes per year of polymer-grade ethylene.
  • A Polyethylene Plant to consume most of the ethylene produced
  • Associate off-site facilities and infrastructure
  • The company officials also say there is a possibility of a mono-ethylene glycol plant being constructed on-site to utilize the balance of ethylene produced.

Economic diversification

“This town has been driven by the forestry industry for a long time. It is going to take a little bit of retraining to start thinking petrochemicals,” says James.  “It will totally transform the economy here, the education, and the prospects of your kids being able to stay here and work for a career.”

Mayor Lyn Hall also spoke at the announcement and called the project a game-changer.

“It’s big news. This is a game-changer for this community,” says Hall. “We know there’s still a tremendous amount of work to do over the next year. You’ve seen the timelines and the milestones Ken has put up, but what really adds to the diversification of this community through this project is employment opportunities.”


West Coast Olefins says its aware of the local sensitivity to air shed concerns in the bowl area, especially particulate matter and odour issues. 

James says the plant uses a low-carbon, clean-burning mixture of ethane and hydrogen as its main fuel source for fired equipment that has no soot or odour and minimizes GHG emissions.

Lheidli T’enneh

The project is located on the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh, and James says the company has been meeting with Lheidli for the past six months and is now getting into negotiations on an agreement.

“I am very optimistic,” says James. Although Lheidli T’enneh Chief Clay Pountney was not in attendance at today’s announcement, he provided a statement in a news release.

“Lheidli T’enneh Nation looks forward to potentially partnering with West Coast Olefins to ensure that if the project is approved will provide significant economic benefits to Lheidli T’enneh and our members and is designed and built in a way that is aligned with our values,” states Chief Pountney.

Next Steps

West Coast Olefins is preparing to enter the formal regulatory approval process and is targeting a final investment decision by the end of 2020, followed by a three-year construction period to bring the facilities into full commercial operation. This will include a significant public engagement and consultation process.

“I’m over 50 per cent confident that this is going to go which may seem pessimistic in the world of projects where 1-in-20 go - I’m very confident,” says James.  “The level of support we’ve got across the province at all levels, I’ve never seen.”

If the company is able to get the regulations needed, it plans to begin site construction in Spring 2021 until summer 2023. The commercial operation date is set for the end of 2023.