INEOS Styrolutions closing June 2026

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Aamjiwaang residents express relief and concern with announcement

Company president says the current problems with benzene emissions is not the reason

Heather Wright/The Independent

After nearly two months of scrutiny, INEOS Styrolutions says its closing the Sarnia Plant.

Online, members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation are both pleased and wary of what comes next.

May 1 – 15 days after high levels of benzene in the air sickened members of the the Aamjiwnaang First Nation – the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, pulled the company’s Environmental Compliance Approval certificate shutting the plant down.

The order required the removal of all benzene storage from the site.

The province also ordered installation of full vapour control equipment which were later mirrored by the federal government which announced an interim order May 17.

May 15, lawyers for INEOS Styrolutions filed an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal which now hears cases regarding MECP orders calling them “crippling.” The case was to be heard July 12.

But the company president says the current problems with benzene emissions is not the reason for the June 2026 closure.

Independent Commodity Intelligence Services says many styrene producers are operating at only 70 per cent capacity because of an over supply after the number of styrene plants in China – one of the biggest markets for the plastic, added significant capacity.

“This difficult business decision to permanently close our Sarnia site was made following a lengthy evaluation process and is based on the economics of the facility within a wider industry context,” Styrolution CEO Steve Harrington said in a news release. “The long-term prospects for the Sarnia site have worsened to the point that it is no longer an economically viable operating asset.”

The plant has been closed for maintenance since April. Orders to stop benzene emissions issued in May were stalling the reopening of the plant.

Thursday, the company complained in a news release of being “relentlessly targeted” by both the provincial and federal governments.

“We are very concerned by the ongoing issuance of duplicate and conflicting orders from various branches of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks and the (federal ministry) ECCC, which demand unsafe timelines that would contribute to higher emissions,” the company said in a news release.

“We will not jeopardize the safety of our employees, neighbours, and community. It is unconscionable for the MECP and ECCC to demand compliance with unsafe timelines and, essentially, the forced breaching of their own newly imposed regulations on our company. Despite our history of compliance, our company is being relentlessly targeted by Canadian government agencies.”

“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 said.

The Sarnia plant is one of two styrene plants the company operates in North America. About seven per cent of North America’s styrene is manufactured at the Sarnia plant.

Eighty people are employed full time at the plant. In a letter to the Ontario Land Tribunal, the company said that pumps $15 million into the local economy creating spin off jobs. INEOS was also considering a proposed $200 million US planned environmental upgrade of the facility prior to the current shutdown.

Minutes after the new, members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation were reacting on social media. Ada Lockridge – a long standing environmental activist in the community – was happy the source of the latest benzene issues will close. “They have had plenty of time, like 20 years now to lower their benzene emissions,” she said.

Lockridge says chemical plants should not be so close to residential areas as other voiced concerns about the company cleaning up the entire site as it leaves.

And others wondered who will come next. “Now we need to be concerned who might buy up that space,” said Patty Gilbert. “We need to start now to campaign against any other company setting up there in close proximity to prevent more of the same.”

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