Sarnia styrene plant at centre of benzene controversy says it will close permanently


The styrene monomer production site in Sarnia, which was ordered to temporarily close to manage benzene emissions, says it will permanently close as of June 2026 regardless of any future intervention from the Ontario or federal governments. 

Aamjiwnaang First Nation officials declared a state of emergency in late April after numerous residents fell ill and lobbed allegations against the neighbouring site owner, INEOS Styrolution, for what the reserve claimed to be elevated benzene emissions.    

Both the provincial and federal governments stepped in. First, Ontario suspended the facility’s environmental compliance approval. Among the requirements that emerged from the federal government was a temporary order that requires any facility in the area that records excess levels of benzene between March 1, 2023, and February 29, 2024, to put in place vapour control measures on benzene storage tanks. 

The company claims that at no time did it record benzene emissions beyond allowable Ontario levels of 0.45 ug/m3 

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“The long-term prospects for the Sarnia site have worsened to the point that it is no longer an economically viable operating asset,” announced INEOS Styrolution CEO Steve Harrington in a statement. “The economic reality is that we have made significant investments in the Sarnia site for many years to ensure safe and reliable operations. Additional large investments that are unrelated to the potential costs of restarting operations would be necessary in the near future. Such investments would be economically impractical given today’s challenging industry environment,” Harrington continued. 

Harrington noted that it will take some six months to undertake everything that is now required to resume production at the facility.  

In comments to local media, some members of the First Nation community expressed skepticism over the closure news. 

“I’m a little bit of a pessimist when it comes to the promises that the industry makes to us,” former councillor Marina Plain told Global News. “Nobody ever really just closes. Not around here with the industry, anyway.” 

INEOS has previously indicated that 80 full-time direct jobs and 500 indirect jobs are associated with its operations in the region. The Sarnia styrene facility was built by the Canadian Polymer Crown company in 1943. 


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