NOVA Chemicals was founded in 1954 as Alberta Gas Trunk Lines by the Alberta government. In the 1970s, NOVA Chemicals expanded into the chemicals industry. The company was privatized in 1961 and was renamed NOVA Corporation in 1980. In 1998 it merged with TransCanada Pipelines Limited  and also became a publicly traded company for the first time that year. NOVA Chemicals was long headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, until then-CEO Jeffrey Lipton moved the executive offices to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the late 1990s. While this move was made in order to be closer to US customers, the benefits of the move never materialized. It was also seen as a snub to the province of Alberta, as Premier Ed Stelmach refused to grant NOVA Chemicals a bailout in 2009 due to the financial meltdown and recession, as well as the company's heavy debt load.
On July 6, 2009, the International Petroleum Investment Company (since 2016 IPIC merged with Mudabala), which is wholly owned by the government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, completed the 100% purchase of NOVA Chemicals, and transferred its place of incorporation to the Province of New Brunswick.
In the United States, NOVA Chemicals has focused recent expansion in the Gulf Coast area. This includes acquiring an olefins plant that produces roughly 1.95 billion pounds of ethylene annually in Geismar, Louisiana, which was purchased from Williams Partners. The company is also considering the building of a new polyethylene plant in St. Clair Township.