Singapore could house Neste's next giant refinery

President and chief executive Matti Lievonen said the group expects to come to a final decision on the new Singapore location by the end of next year.
President and chief executive Matti Lievonen said the group expects to come to a final decision on the new Singapore location by the end of next year.PHOTO: NESTE

SINGAPORE - Energy giant Neste is tossing up whether locate a renewable-diesel refinery here or in the United States, according to the Finnish firm's boss.

President and chief executive Matti Lievonen said the group expects to come to a final decision on the location by the end of next year.

Neste's existing renewable-diesel plant in Singapore is the largest in the world, boasting a capacity of 1.1 million metric tonnes a year.

The company also runs a similar facility in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and two smaller units in Porvoo, Finland.

Mr Lievonen, who was speaking at the 10th anniversary of the company's Tuas plant, said the upcoming refinery will be bigger that its existing ones, with more complex operations. In addition to renewable diesel, it will focus on bio-jet fuels, a fast-growing market.

He would not be drawn into commenting on how Singapore is faring so far in the race, but said Neste is considering a host of factors, such as how the location's business chains will fit in with its operations, the availability of feedstock sites, talent, as well as support for the business.

Mr Lievonen noted that the S$1.2 billion refinery in Tuas has performed very well since it opened in November 2010, recording a 30 per cent jump, equivalent to a 300,000 tonne growth in capacity, over the last four years.

The Singapore refinery produces Neste MY Renewable Diesel, which can be used in engines to achieve up to 90 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than with fossil diesel. Most of the renewable diesel generation from the plant - also Neste's largest investment in renewable refining to date - goes to the product's main markets in Europe and North America.

Mr Lievonen said: "The greatest contribution the Singapore refinery has made is its role in the fight against climate change. The Neste Singapore refinery is helping customers reduce greenhouse gas emissions by three million tonnes annually.

"The reduction is equal to the permanent removal of 900,000 cars from the roads. This is a great achievement for a company and the environment.

"Today, people are talking about climate change. They are becoming more and more aware (of the need for cleaner fuels), and there is immense demand."

The group's overall net sales last year hit 11.7 billion euros (S$18.6 billion).

Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran told the anniversary gathering that Neste's investment in Singapore in 2007 was "not only an ambitious and strategic move... but also a strong vote of confidence for Singapore as a destination for high value-added manufacturing".

"Today, Neste Singapore serves several key markets across the world with renewable diesel, one of the cleanest forms of diesel on the market. This is enabled by Singapore's well-connected air and sea links, as well as extensive network of free-trade agreements.

"In particular, Neste has benefited from our strong trade links with developed economies, such as the US and Europe, in serving the demand from these markets."