Alberta is Canada’s largest refining and petrochemical cluster, characterized by modern, world-scale plants with access to abundant resource feedstock and efficient transportation systems able to deliver supply to consumers. There is significant potential for investors who are interested in taking advantage of Alberta’s vast energy resources and new government development programs to build new petrochemical plants in the province.
Key Sector Advantages
Abundant low cost feedstock
Alberta accounts for 68 per cent of Canadian natural gas production. As a major gas exporter, the province’s AECO natural gas price and many of its natural gas liquid products have traded at a discount to U.S. prices. This opens up strong investment opportunities for downstream companies to build plants in Alberta.
Methane and Propane
The province also has abundant supplies of methane and propane gases to develop new petrochemicals supply. The province currently produces an estimate of 10 bcf/d of natural gas and 160 kbbl/d of propane, both in excess of domestic demand, with large quantities available for petrochemicals applications.
Alberta has four ethane-cracking plants, including two of the world’s largest, with a combined annual capacity of 4.1 million tons per year of ethylene output. Alberta’s petrochemicals sector is built primarily on consumption of ethane in steam crackers owned by Nova Chemicals and Dow. They make plastics and other building block chemicals from natural gas liquid. The National Energy Board of Canada estimates Alberta’s ethane gathering system has an excess ethane supply, that can be tapped to build new steam cracking capacity in the province.
Significant midstream infrastructure capacity
Alberta has Canada’s most comprehensive midstream natural gas and NGL processing capacity, with the Nova Gas Transmission Line system ( 11 bcf/d of deliveries in 2016), the Alberta Ethane Gathering System (320 kbbl/d of transmission capacity) and in-depth natural gas liquid extraction infrastructure integrating upstream hydrocarbon production with downstream consumers.
There is strong infrastructure in place to help accommodate new petrochemicals capacity in the province.
Government support to grow the petrochemicals sector
Alberta has two programs to support the growth of resource processing in the province: The Petrochemicals Diversification Program and the Petrochemicals Feedstock Infrastructure Program. These programs maintain the province’s competitive edge as a leading destination for investment, by placing it on the same footing with competing jurisdictions.
Areas of Expertise
Canada’s largest ethane cracking complexes are located in Joffre/Prentiss and Fort Saskatchewan. From the ethane cracked at these facilities, Alberta is a major producer of polyethylene plastic, ethylene glycol and other applications such as styrene monomer and ethyl vinyl acetate. Government is planning to build new petrochemicals capacity, including brown/greenfield cracking and derivatives capacity.
The province will now be home to Canada’s first two on-purpose propylene derivatives plant, the PDH-PP plant, currently under construction by Inter-Pipeline Corporation, and a recently announced petrochemical upgrading facility to be built by the Canada-Kuwait Petrochemical Corporation (CKPC), a joint venture agreement between Calgary-based Pembina Pipelines and Petrochemicals Industry Corp (PIC).
Alberta is a major producer of methane-based petrochemicals products such as ammonia and urea, which are used as fertilizer, as well as methanol, a common petrochemical building block and fuel.
The province is also home to Keyera’s Alberta Enviro-Fuels, iso-octane production facility, which makes approximately 14 kbbl/d of high grade transportation fuel additives, operating the world’s largest plant in this important sector.
Alberta is also a producer of specialized chemicals such as oligomers, ethyl vinyl acetate, proppant for hydraulic fracturing and carbon black.
Research and Development
- Alberta’s oil and gas industry is constantly growing along with its need for technology and services. The Alberta Government is improving technological applications across the hydrocarbons value chain, from extraction technologies through to resource processing.
- A recent application of government’s dedication to innovation in the downstream space involves the Partial Upgrading Program. This comprehensive program will help commercialize an entirely new class of oil sands bitumen upgrader to help add value to crude bitumen resources, increase capacity on North American pipeline networks and open new classes of refineries to processing of the oil sands.
- Alberta produces approximately 68 per cent of Canadian natural gas, primarily exporting supply to North America and Eastern Canada by pipeline.
- The petrochemicals sector accounts for approximately one-third of Alberta's total manufacturing exports.
- Alberta produces 27 per cent of Canada’s chemical output.
- Alberta Industrial Heartland
- Multi-sectoral industrial region located North East of Edmonton, including refining, petrochemicals and other heavy industrial uses.
- Petrochemicals capacity includes ethane cracking, producing polyethylene plastic, styrene monomer and nitrogen fertilizers.
- Two rail access service options to reach export markets.
- Petrochemicals cluster located in Central Alberta between Edmonton and Calgary.
- Primary petrochemicals capacity revolves around ethane crackers operated by Nova Chemicals and Dow producing polyethylene plastic resin, monoethylene glycol (MEG) and other oligomers.
- Two rail access service options to reach export markets.
- Established petrochemicals cluster in south east Alberta.
- Petrochemicals capacity includes methanol and nitrogen fertilizers.
- Rail access to export markets via Canadian Pacific Railway.
- Centralized, city-owned electricity services available to support industrial services.
- Upcoming petrochemicals cluster in North West Alberta.
- Seeking downstream investment opportunities in all spaces, with emphasis on development potential of methane-based petrochemicals capacity.
- Rail access to export markets via Canadian National Railway.
- Major local towns: Edson and Hinton.
- Established oil, gas and other hydrocarbons sectors.
- Petrochemical region with the closest rail connection to the west coast.