Friday 10 January 2014

ExxonMobil opens multibillion-dollar chemical plant expansion in Jurong

By Alvin Foo, The Straits Times, 9 Jan 2014

ENERGY giant ExxonMobil has marked its 120th anniversary in Singapore by opening a multibillion-dollar expansion of its vast chemical plant on Jurong Island.

At the event yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the expansion is Singapore's single biggest manufacturing investment here and the oil giant's largest here.

He added the Government will work to ensure Singapore remains the region's leading chemicals and energy centre. The Republic will upgrade facilities and infrastructure on Jurong Island, improve workforce skills and adopt strategies to tackle climate change.

"Energy and chemicals contribute a third of our manufacturing output, with many positive spill-over effects... Singaporeans have built successful careers in this industry, here and overseas."

The plant is ExxonMobil's largest integrated petrochemical complex globally, accounting for a quarter of its global chemical capacity.

Its Singapore presence began 120 years ago with Vacuum Oil Company in Robinson Quay, selling kerosene and lubricants.

It has grown into a multibillion-dollar manufacturing and marketing operation here. It also runs 63 Esso petrol kiosks and supplies cylinder home cooking gas.

The world's largest oil company has invested more than US$10 billion (S$12.7 billion) here, including the plant expansion which experts estimate cost US$5 billion.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam was guest of honour at a gala dinner at Shangri-La Hotel last night to mark the anniversary.

The plant was commissioned in 2001 with ground-breaking for the expansion in 2007. Mr Matthew Aguiar, ExxonMobil Asia- Pacific chairman and managing director, said the plant expansion was made possible by the Government's support to divert a highway to create the site.

Occupying 72ha, the expansion more than doubles ExxonMobil's petrochemical production capacity here. Its ethylene capacity has soared from 900,000 tonnes a year to about 1.9 million tonnes.

Its chemical plant workforce here has been boosted by 50 per cent, noted PM Lee, bringing total staff at its integrated refining and chemical complex to 2,000. All in, the company employs more than 3,300 staff here.

He said the petrochemical industry faces challenges like rising competition from the United States, China and Europe, growing global concern over emissions and domestic constraints. But he added: "We are taking a bigger step to make Jurong Island more competitive and sustainable."

This includes using waste heat for water desalination to save energy and introducing alternative feedstock sources.

Singapore is also enlarging its talent pool and ensuring a skilled workforce. Mr Lee said the Government stands fully behind the energy and petrochemical firms here and will continue to help them succeed.

Singapore aims to keep lead in chemicals, energy sectors: PM Lee
Several initiatives underway to ensure city-state retains status as major global hub for sectors
TODAY, 9 Jan 2014

The Government will continue to support the energy and chemicals industry here, ensuring Singapore retains its status as a major global hub for the sectors.

Several initiatives are underway to achieve that goal, including the enhancement of the infrastructure on Jurong Island, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday at the official opening of ExxonMobil’s expanded chemical plant.

Dubbing the programme of initiatives Jurong Island Version 2.0, Mr Lee said a key development is the introduction of alternative feedstock sources such as LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) to increase competitiveness and reduce the costs for the plants here. Another strategy is to use waste heat for water desalination to save energy, he said.

As a feedstock — or raw material — for chemical manufacturing, LPG is gaining popularity as an industry alternative and Singapore needs to make sure it can deliver what companies such as ExxonMobil require.

To ensure Singapore continues to attract new investments, a new LPG terminal will be built on Jurong Island, the Economic Development Board’s Director For Energy and Chemicals Eugene Leong told TODAY.

“The new terminal will allow LPG to be stored and distributed to plants on Jurong Island … We’re in the final stages of discussion and expect to make an announcement in the first quarter this year,” he said.

Other developments on the island include Tuas Power’s Tembusu Multi-Utilities Complex to provide cost-effective utility services for industries and the launch of Jurong Island Terminal last year to reduce dependence on trucking, Mr Leong added.

Besides hardware, Singapore is also keen on upgrading its capabilities through workforce training and research and development.

“A skilled workforce is an important part of this. We’re growing our pipeline of science and engineering graduates ... promoting continuous education and training ... and creating knowledge through research and development,” he said.

“At the same time, we want to assure all the energy and petrochemicals companies in Singapore that the Government stands fully behind them,” Mr Lee added. “Companies like ExxonMobil depend on us to maintain a predictable environment for their investments to succeed.

Home to many petrochemical companies such as BASF, Mitsui Chemicals, Shell and Sumitomo Chemicals, Singapore’s openness, transparency and free trade were key factors in ExxonMobil’s decision to expand its chemical plant here, Chief Executive Rex Tillerson said at the opening ceremony yesterday..

ExxonMobil’s expanded plant is Singapore’s largest manufacturing investment to date. Its chemical plant expansion takes its total investment in Singapore to more than S$10 billion

The multi-billion-dollar investment — which transforms the chemical plant into ExxonMobil’s largest integrated refining and petrochemical complex globally — will allow the American energy giant to double its finished product capacity in Singapore.

Completed in December 2012, the five-year project further enables ExxonMobil to tap Asia’s booming economy and demand for energy and petrochemical products, Mr Tillerson said.

“By the year 2040, the overall economy of Asia is likely to triple in size,” he said. “We expect global chemical demand to grow at a faster pace than gross domestic product as people seek higher standards of living … Two-thirds of that growth in chemical demand will be here in the Asia-Pacific region and the Singapore chemical plant is uniquely positioned to serve these growth markets.”

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