20 February 2009

Singapore petrochemicals "holding its own"

Despite the economic downturn, mega developments continue on Jurong Island including a biodiesel plant, petrochemical cracker and oil storage facilities.
Jurong Island from Cyrene Reef
But ExxonMobil Corp will partially shut its mainland Singapore refinery and some petrochemical units at its Jurong Island facility for a month or more from March for routine maintenance. This includes ExxonMobil's over 900,000 tonnes a year naphtha cracker - the largest such unit in South-east Asia - and aromatics plant, the core facilities in the Jurong Island petrochemical operations.

Petrochemicals sector steady as she goes
Neste Oil to start plant construction, ENOC terminal to officially open
Ronnie Lim, Business Times 20 Feb 09;
THE oil/petrochemicals sector here appears to be holding its own, despite the economic downturn.

Next month will see two mega developments - a foundation-stone ceremony marking the start of construction proper for Neste Oil of Finland's $1.2 billion second-generation biodiesel plant, and the opening of Emirates National Oil Company's (ENOC) $470 million Horizon Terminals.

Just this week, a work contract was also awarded for the final downstream plant at ExxonMobil's US$5 billion-plus second petrochemical cracker here - which is expected to reach construction peak, with 14,000 workers employed, later this year, BT understands.

Neste Oil's coming event on March 6 follows completion late last year of foundation and civil engineering works at the Tuas site of what will be the world's largest renewable diesel plant, when the facility is completed in 2010.

BT reported last month that - in a clear sign that all was well with the project - Neste had started recruiting key managers for the 800,000 tonnes per annum facility.

A week after Neste's ceremony, the ENOC-led consortium's Horizon Terminals, a 1.24 million cubic metre oil storage facility, will officially open on March 12.

This follows completion of its third phase project adding 270,000 cu m of storage last December. This brought its total investment here to $470 million, a spokesman told BT.

'We are unfortunately constrained by land availability on Jurong Island,' he said, when asked if Horizon Terminals had plans for further expansions here.

The Horizon Terminals consortium is, meanwhile, awaiting a decision from JTC Corporation on the operatorship of the Jurong Rock Cavern underground storage facility. It was one of the bidders.

Despite the uncertain period - which saw some of the smaller oil trading firms here dropping out of the game last year - 'we are still optimistic', the Horizon spokesman said of prospects in oil terminalling here, given that the bigger players are all here for the long term.

'Commercial occupancy is 100 per cent right now,' he added, explaining that its tanks are leased to oil traders on long-term, one to two year contracts, with the latter reluctant to give these up, as 'it's difficult to get back'.

The weaker oil market, plus the entry of more terminal operators, is reflected more in 'physical occupancy of oil storage here, as throughput of the tanks has fallen', he said.

'Previously, while turnover of tanks averaged about 15 times a year, it had dropped to 10-12 times, and is now about 8-10 times a year,' he said of the throughput in the oil terminal business here.

A sign that things are also on track at ExxonMobil's petrochemical project, mainboard-listed OKP Holdings said on Wednesday that it had been awarded a $21.7 million civil works contract from a Foster Wheeler/Worley Parsons joint venture - understood to have done front-end engineering for the polypropylene downstream plant there.

The contract apparently marks the start of work on the last of the downstream projects at the oil giant's second petrochemical complex here.

One indirect benefit of the downturn, for investors such as ExxonMobil, has been lower material and labour costs.

BT understands that the project remains on schedule, with 14,000 workers (up from an earlier-indicated 10,000-plus workers) expected to be employed at construction peak later this year.

ExxonMobil's second complex, with a one million tonnes per annum cracker, is scheduled to start up in early-2011, just shortly after Shell's new petrochemical complex in mid-2010.

ExxonMobil to shut refining units for maintenance in March: sources
Business Times 20 Feb 09;
(SINGAPORE) ExxonMobil Corp will partially shut its mainland Singapore refinery and some petrochemical units at its Jurong Island facility for a month or more from March for routine maintenance, six industry sources said yesterday.

The US energy giant will close a number of secondary units in the 309,000 barrels per day (bpd) mainland refinery from early- March to mid-April, the sources told Reuters. They said none of the plant's crude units would be shut.

ExxonMobil's over 900,000 tonnes a year naphtha cracker - the largest such unit in South-east Asia - and aromatics plant, the core facilities in the Jurong Island petrochemical operations, will also be shut during March, they said.

Traders said details of the maintenance plan at the two refineries were not completely clear, although one industry source said the visbreaking units at both the mainland and Jurong Island refineries would be shut in stages during the period.

The Jurong Island plant has a capacity of 296,000- bpd, making Exxon's facilities in Singapore the fifth- biggest refining complex in the world.

The visbreaker processes residual fuels into more valuable middle distillates, and the shutdown would lead to more fuel oil flooding an oversupplied market but could help ease the glut in the region's diesel supplies in the face of slow demand.

'No CDUs will be shut, only the visbreaker. The impact will be more on fuel oil,' said a distillate trader, adding that the overall impact on the diesel market will be limited.

At Jurong Island, two sources said the March turnaround would include the aromatics unit that can produce more than 300,000 tonnes of benzene a year, while a cracking facility will start its month- long turnaround in May.

Asked about the planned maintenance, an ExxonMobil spokesman said: 'It is not our practice to comment on the operational status of our facilities. We are unable to confirm or comment on the information you have received.'

The mainland refinery, which has two crude distillation units (CDUs) - one with a capacity of more than 200,000 bpd and the other with up to 100,000 bpd - was shut for major maintenance in June 2007.

The refinery on Jurong Island, also called the Pulau Ayer Chawan (PAC) facility, operates two CDUs with a capacity of about 115,000 bpd and 185,000 bpd. The smaller one was shut for over two weeks in May 2007 after a fire.

Traders said the shutdown of Exxon's cracking facility may have only a small impact on the region's naphtha market.

'Generally, there shouldn't be any major impact on Exxon's naphtha supply because they are net short. They import naphtha to feed the cracker, which uses about 60 per cent low-sulphur waxy residue and 40 per cent naphtha,' a source said\. \-- Reuters

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