Origin Materials says construction of Sarnia plant is on schedule


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California biochemical company Origin Materials says its first plant currently under construction in Sarnia is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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The facility that will use biomass, such as sawdust, to make chemical building blocks for making plastics and other products is being assembled in an industrial park at the Arlanxeo site, along from Vidal Street.

“We continue to execute on our construction timelines by completing several project milestones ahead of schedule,” co-CEO John Bissell said on a recent earnings call.

The main production modules assembled offsite and shipped to Sarnia were installed “six months ahead of the plan announced in April 2021,” he said.

An evaporator module system was installed three months ahead of schedule, he said.

An evaporator module system tank is unloaded at the Origin Materials construction site in Sarnia in this photo provided by the company. Handout

“We continued to progress in 2022,” he said. “The installation of structural elements and interconnecting piping, the main production modules of the plant” is largely complete.

Foundation work for the majority of ancillary processing buildings and tank farms is also complete, Bissell said.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley recently joined local officials and company representatives for a tour of the plant site.

“I think they’re heading towards a hiring mode of about 50 people,” Bradley said. “They’re going to have a job fair – I just don’t know when.”

Origin Materials’ decision to choose Sarnia for its first plant was “a breakthrough for us,” Bradley said. “It’s the future.”

Sarnia officials have worked over the past decades to promote the region as a “hybrid chemical cluster” to attract green energy and biochemical companies to set up shop alongside established petrochemical and refinery companies. in what is locally called the chemical valley.

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Bradley said those efforts include promoting sites, such as the Arlanxeo Industrial Park, that offer established services for new manufacturing facilities. It already houses a production site for LCY Biosciences.

“You grow the cluster the same way the fast food industry does,” with companies being drawn to places where similar businesses are already established, he said.

The Origin Materials plant can act as a “presenter for other companies to show that this is what you can do and the workmanship is strong,” Bradley said.

Bradley said Origin Materials is “well ahead of schedule” at the Sarnia plant “due to the strength of construction here,” adding that company officials said they were impressed with the safety levels and the “competence” of local construction trades.

Origin Materials announced in 2017 that it would build a “pioneer plant” in Sarnia to demonstrate its technology and produce its biochemicals so that their use could be qualified with the customer’s production processes.

The company announced last month that its first global manufacturing facility would be built in Louisiana at a site along the Mississippi River, near pulp mills and sawmills capable of supplying the vast amount of wood residues required.

Bissell said it began reviewing 40 sites before selecting the location in Louisiana with its access to transportation networks, hydrogen and ethylene pipelines from a local industrial cluster, a skilled workforce and a “compelling” incentive package from state and local governments.

The plant is expected to employ 200 workers after construction is completed in mid-2025, the company said.

“When you ask, it’s a matter of sourcing,” of raw materials, Bradley said of the company’s decision to select the Louisiana site.

“They certainly didn’t rule out that location for another plant as they grew,” he said.

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