Canadian Biomass Magazine

Origin Materials biomass plant officially opens in Sarnia, Ont.

August 21, 2023
By Blake Ellis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Origin 1 Starting Up, August 2023/Vimeo

The first commercial plant in the burgeoning biomass industry was officially opened in Sarnia, Ont., on Wednesday, July 19. Tucked in the industrial park at Arlanxeo on Vidal Street in Sarnia, the Origin Materials plant is the first to make chloromethyl furfural, a chemical to make plastic and hydrothermal carbon. The new plant will supply industry with chemicals and materials which can be used in many products including clothing, textiles, plastics, packaging, car parts, tires and fuels.

“Sarnia is a place for a lot of firsts,” said Origin Materials co-founder and CEO John Bissell, as he made note, of the first commercial oil discovery in Oil Springs in 1858 and the building of the polymer synthetic rubber factory in Sarnia, another first, in the midst of the Second World War. He hoped Origin Materials plant could be yet another first, as California-based Origin Materials is the world’s leading carbon negative materials company

Chemical engineering students, including Bissell, from the University of California Davis founded a new material technology company, Origin Materials, in 2008. The company has developed a platform for turning carbon found in biomass into useful materials, while also capturing the carbon in the process.

“Origin Materials was so determined to make this happen,” said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley. He knows this new industry might be a difficult sell for a community dependent on the fossil fuel industry but he believes the two industries are compatible with each other.

“It is great to see the dream become a reality” said Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu. She believes this new plant in Sarnia can help Canada meet its net zero goals.

Origin Materials announced Sarnia would be the site of its first plant in 2017 and construction the $130 million facility continued through the pandemic.

Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, supported Origin Materials as it made the move into Sarnia. Bioindustrial Innovation Canada executive director Sandy Marshall saw the new plant as a “natural fit.”

He believes Sarnia making the short list for the new plant and eventually becoming where the facility will be built, was due to the strong safety culture that exists in the Chemical Valley.

Blake Ellis is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for The Independent.

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