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  Business Times 12 Sep 07
Expand refineries to keep global share: Iswaran
By Ronnie Lim

SINGAPORE needs to expand its existing oil refineries or attract new greenfield refinery investments to maintain its share of global refining capacity. It must also integrate biofuels activities - including biofuel trading - with the oil industry here.

These are crucial key steps which have to be undertaken to ensure that Singapore's oil industry can widen its lead and grow to the next level, S Iswaran, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said at the Asia-Pacific Petroleum Conference yesterday.

'The future of the oil industry in Singapore cannot be guaranteed and there is no room for complacency. Regional competition is intense and unrelenting,' he warned.

With global refining capacity expected to increase by another 30 million barrels per day by 2030, it is important that Singapore - the third largest refining centre worldwide with 1.3 million bpd capacity - also maintains its share of global capacity, he said.

'This is necessary to provide the critical volume of export-oriented refining throughput, creating the liquidity needed to anchor oil trading and price discovery activities in Singapore.'

The three refineries here are ExxonMobil with 605,000 bpd capacity, Shell with 500,000 bpd and Singapore Refining Company with 285,000 bpd. Singapore's refining capacity has remained unchanged for the last decade, prompting recent calls, including by the Economic Development Board, for at least one more new refinery here.

On another front, Mr Iswaran also wants biofuels to be integrated with the oil industry here. Biofuels production here - with EDB helping jumpstart manufacturing on Jurong Island - is expected to exceed one million tonnes per year by 2010, growing to 3 million tpa by 2015, he said.

A number of new biofuels plants there are close to starting up operations, he added.

The next step will be to embark on biofuels trading, he added. One key step here will be energy service provider Platts' upcoming plans to start price assessment for biodiesel loaded out of Singapore, making it one of the first Asian locations for this.

'Knowing the price of biodiesel is vital to exporters who are planning to establish their production bases here in Singapore to serve both regional and global markets,' Mr Iswaran said.

Finally, to maximise the use of Singapore's refinery assets, the industry will also have to invest in R&D, to develop technologies and know-how that will allow it to stay ahead of the competition, he said.

This includes efforts by universities and research institutes like the Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences, in areas like lubricants, process optimisation and catalyst development.

In conjunction with the Appec conference, inaugural Asian energy awards were handed out yesterday including to Singapore Petroleum Company, which won Energy Company of the Year, Asia. SGX AsiaClear won the top award for Energy Trading and Risk Management; Asia Carbon Group that for Environmental Markets; and GFI Group/Spectron for Energy Broking.

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