Refinery Spotlight: Imperial Sarnia

Feb 11, 2019   | Categories: Energy, Fossil Fuels, Refineries
A Southwest Ontario industrial cluster is home to four Canadian Fuels Association Member facilities, including Imperial’s sprawling Sarnia Refinery.  It boasts a successful history dating back to the late 1800’s, when most people got around by horse and buggy and predating the first motorcar.  Today, Imperial is the Canadian extension of majority stakeholder ExxonMobil, the ninth largest company on Earth by revenue, according to Forbes.  That scale is its Sarnia operation’s greatest advantage.

The centrepiece of the campus, the refinery proper, produces gasoline, diesel, home heating oil, and fuels for marine and air transportation.  Elsewhere, the facility produces polyethylene, solvents, olefins, and aromatics.  Those are feedstocks that supply customers who make dyes, detergents, plastics, and more than 6 thousand other products.  The site is home to a cutting-edge research and development facility that’s integral in keeping petroleum products relevant in a technologically advancing global market by improving quality and environmental performance.

Sharing its grounds with a chemical plant means this is a facility with incredible scope, dominating more corners of the market than most.  The petroleum feedstock has not far to go before being further processed into chemical products.  That’s efficient, moneysaving, and better for the environment.  The research centre augments those effects, allowing ever-improving processes, end formulations, and eco-sensitivity, making its products some of the highest quality in the world.  The same company operates another refinery in Nanticoke, Ont., 220km east, which the company is happy to pair with its Sarnia flagship.

More broadly, Imperial is incredibly integrated.   With a giant’s footprint upstream in exploration and extraction, then downstream in distribution and retail, there’s really no part of the oil business it doesn’t touch.  And, it seems, no business can touch Imperial.


Blog with Rohan Davis, Sarnia Refinery Manager, Imperial

Canadian Fuels Association asked Rohan Davis, Sarnia Refinery Manager, Imperial, to describe the importance of integration to Imperial and to provide an overview of company operations at Imperial Sarnia Site. 


As an integrated energy company, Imperial explores for, produces, refines and markets products essential to society. Whether it's finding oil and gas, making and selling high-quality petroleum products, or investing in innovative research, our business helps ensure Canada's quality of life and energy future. 

We are Canada's largest refiner of petroleum products, with refineries located in Edmonton, Sarnia and Nanticoke.  We refine raw hydrocarbons into a wide range of products essential to consumers and businesses: gasoline, diesel, heating oil, natural gas, lubricants, and chemicals used to make plastics.  
Imperial offers these products and services to consumers across Canada as well as in export markets.  In total, we manufacture and sell about a quarter of the petroleum products used every day by Canadians.  We are also a leading marketer of fuels, lubricants, asphalts and specialty products.
It’s hard to imagine life without the products manufactured from hydrocarbons.  They fuel our economies, heat our homes and make our lives easier and more enjoyable.  Like you, we are concerned about the effects of chemicals on health and the environment and we have integrated Responsible Care® into our business practices.

Integration between upstream, midstream and downstream helps our company compete in various commodity price environments. More specifically, Sarnia Site is further integrated between refining and chemical manufacturing. Our refinery processes crude oil into ethane that becomes ethylene feedstock for the site’s polyethylene plant. A key specialty product for us is known as rotation and injection moulding, which is used to make products such as plastic beach toys, lawn furniture or recycle bins. The Sarnia chemical plant is located within a day’s drive of one of North America’s largest markets for chemical products, which is another advantage for us.

On the refining side, Sarnia is integrated by pipeline with Nanticoke refinery near Simcoe. At Sarnia, we manufacture diesel and gasoline, as well as a significant portion of the jet fuel that goes to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

Imperial Sarnia Site, which employs more than 700 people and 1,000-plus contractors, is also home to a downstream research centre. Technology and innovation are fundamental to unlocking the potential of Canada's energy resources and since Imperial’s Sarnia research centre was established in 1928, it has patented more than 700 products and processes. We are also proud of the centre’s role as advanced technical support lab for the global ExxonMobil and affiliates’ lubricants and specialties business.
Our company understands the importance of investing in the cities and towns in which we operate as well as fostering strong relationships with our neighbours, which includes Indigenous communities. We are fortunate to have a workforce that shares these same values. Our employees actively volunteer in communities across our operating areas. As a company, we are strong United Way supporters. In fact, Imperial makes up almost one-quarter of the overall $2 million United Way of Sarnia-Lambton annual campaign. I’d encourage you to follow Sarnia’s Facebook page at to learn more about our role in the community.

-Rohan Davis, Sarnia Refinery Manager, ImperialCanadian Fuels Association


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