IPL: On schedule, on budget

About 1,500 construction workers are currently working at Inter Pipeline Ltd's Heartland Petrochemical Complex in north Strathcona County. Lindsay Morey/News Staff

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Inter Pipeline’s Heartland Petrochemical Complex has surpassed the halfway mark in construction.

Two years into the four-year project, IPL’s latest project in north Strathcona County is 50 per cent complete. This week, the company confirmed great strides have been made in constructing the propane dehydrogenation (PDH) portion of the site, the plant that will convert propane to polypropylene, and the facility is expected to be mechanically completed within one year, which is about one year ahead of schedule. The polypropylene facility will come online late 2021.

“We’re on schedule, on budget,” Bernard Perron, IPL’s senior vice president of projects and operations services, stated an update on Wednesday, Sept. 4. “A lot of what you’re seeing here behind us is work that has happened over the last year because at first we had to order all of the equipment and now the equipment is showing up on site. You can see all of those large vessels that were fabricated here in the Edmonton-area now being erected. That was one of our main objectives. We only have one vessel left to erect. It’s all going very positively. All of those Lego blocks, those modules you see in the back, which were also assembled in the Edmonton region, they’re coming to site as they are being fabricated and we’re right on schedule on that as well.”

The Heartland Petrochemical Complex will create recyclable plastic pellets, which will be used for car parts, carpet backing, and food packaging in Canada and the United States.

Inter Pipeline Ltd. president and CEO Christian Boyle confirmed this week the Heartland Petrochemical Complex is 50 per cent complete. Operations are expected to start late 2021. Lindsay Morey/News Staff

Throughout the winter, motorists experienced two major moves by IPL; the transport of a 820-tonne, 96-metre-long petrochemical splitter and a 728-tonne, 48-metre-long polypropylene reactor from Edmonton to the northern Strathcona County site. Those moves broke provincial historical records for the heaviest and second-heaviest mega moves.

“It was pretty exciting earlier this year when we were hauling all of the major towers. It was a bit of a stressful experience for us because we had a very short window to move these 800-tonne vessels along Alberta roads in the middle of winter. I’m happy it was done on time and we certainly breathed a sigh of relief,” Inter Pipeline’s president and CEO, Christian Bayle. “All of the major vessels are up. Right now, what we’re doing is the finishing work, which will literally take years. It’s all of the structural steel, the instrumentation, the electrical, the piping, all of the occupied buildings, all of the auxiliary things around the vessels that make them function.”

About 1,500 construction workers are currently on site. Once operational, it will offer 180 full-time jobs and produce 525,000 of polypropylene annually.

The Heartland Petrochemical Complex was a new venture in Canada as it integrates PDH and a polypropylene project together on one site, noted Bayle.

About 70 per cent or $2.7B of the $3.5 billion project price tag has been spent within provincial companies, directly and indirectly employing Albertans across 150 companies. In total there are 180 companies involved in the construction of HPC across the rest of Canada that make up the remaining 30 per cent.

“It’s something that everybody here should be proud of,” noted Bayle.

When asked if the UCP government should continue to support the Petrochemical Diversification Program (PDP) established by the former NDP government, Bayle didn’t hesitate to voice his support. Recalling when the decision was to move ahead with the project seven years ago, commodity prices were low and there was not much going on in terms of major industrial construction across the province but this program changed that. The project received $200 million in royalty credits during the province’s first round of the PDP program.

“Absolutely. Petrochemicals, I believe, is the future or one of the futures for Alberta,” stated Bayle. “One of the problems here in Alberta is that we have poor access to market with our hydrocarbon-based products. The petrochemical industry can help change that by turning what is a disadvantaged product — which in our case is locally-sourced propane — and turn it into a high-value product, which is polypropylene, which has a global market.”

Canada exports propane and imports 100 per cent of polypropylene (aka plastic) back because none is produced nationally but upgrading the product within Alberta will yield three to four times what the propane is worth.

IPL’s $600 million acrylic acid and propylene derivates facility also received $70 million in PDP royalty credits in the spring, but that investment decision is expected to come in 2021. That project is also poised to be constructed in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland.