Most companies can point to a ‘make or break’ event in their histories, and this was NORAM’s: building the first mononitrobenzene (MNB) plant to employ a breakthrough adiabatic nitration process. In fact, the process’ advent changed the face of polyurethane manufacture everywhere, not just for NORAM. It was 1993, and suddenly, Vancouver was the “Saudi Arabia” of MNB.
Today, nearly 200 employees call the Lower Mainland of Vancouver home and some twenty world-scale plants have been built or are under construction. Well over half of the global MNB supply now derives from the NORAM process, with plants of ever-increasing capacity in the USA, the UK, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, South Korea, China, and Saudi Arabia markets.
NORAM’s giant process vessels—as they trundle around the subcontinent by road, rail, and barge—have become a well-known output of Axton
Inc., a custom fabrication shop on Annacis Island. Just down the road,
the extensive laboratory and pilot plant facilities of BC Research Inc. in Richmond, BC, act as the midwife for technologies that will ultimately scale up to become the next generation of process technologies.
NORAM Engineering and Constructors Ltd has developed leading technology positions in other industries as well: sulphuric acid, pulp and paper, wastewater, and electrochemical among them. Signature engineering achievements include
- Delivering two giant 2,750 MTPD acid plants to the Ambatovy Nickel Project in Madagascar
- Remediating the Squamish Peninsula from a site of heavy-metal contamination to become a lifestyle and commercial development showcase for the Province of BC, housing companies like Carbon Engineering on the frontlines of fighting climate change
- Developing the proprietary NORSCAND™ electrolyzer, whose myriad applications ranging from lithium production for tomorrow’s batteries to the recovery of waste chemicals
- Engineering for the world’s first LignoForce™ and CelluForce™ plants, setting the Canadian forest products industry on track to recover added value from innovative products such as lignin and cellulose nanocrystals.
In recent years, NORAM has extended its European operations with the establishment of NORAM International AB, in Gothenburg, Sweden. Newcomers to the Group also include CleanFlow AB, a Swedish startup with innovative filtration technology for green and white liquor purification in pulp mills, and ECOfluid Systems Inc., a BC company well-known for its packaged wastewater treatment plants. Over 200 such plants have been delivered in BC, the Caribbean, and North America. The structure of the closely integrated group of companies allows technology to flow seamlessly from concept to engineering to fabrication. It represents not only a unique business model in Vancouver but also an example of and for global innovation in the process and resource industries.