SINGAPORE - A new US$1.4 billion (S$1.9 billion) complex on Jurong Island by industrial gases and engineering group Linde is set to quadruple its capacity here to produce and supply hydrogen and synthesis gas.
A key reason for this is to support the multibillion-dollar expansion of ExxonMobil Asia Pacific's integrated manufacturing complex, which will be its main client.
Such an investment is testimony to Singapore's focus on the long-term, setting the foundation for the next few decades, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Aug 27) at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility.
The complex, to be completed by 2023, will be integrated with Linde's existing gasification facility on Jurong Island and triple its size.
Noting that Singapore is the world's fifth largest petroleum exporter, Mr Chan said at the event that Singapore needs to distinguish itself amid competition and uncertainties today.
He added that the Republic needs to provide a stable and pro-business environment to attract long-term investors such as Linde and ExxonMobil, on top of maintaining consistency and coherence in policy-making.
Although Singapore may not be the cheapest location, it will surpass others in how it delivers value, he added.
"In recent times, despite the uncertainties, many significant investments have planted themselves in Singapore because of our superior connectivity not just in the air, land and sea dimensions, but also in the dimensions of our data, financial, talent, technology and regulatory connectivity," he said.
"We have every intention to not rest on our laurels and continue strengthening these dimensions of connectivity," said Mr Chan.
Linde's move supports the expansion of ExxonMobil and its plan to grow the production of higher-value base stocks for lubricants and distillates from fuel oil, as well as other bottom-of-the-barrel crude products. Hydrogen and synthesis gas are needed for this process, and hydrogen is also used to help meet upcoming maritime regulations.
ExxonMobil's project is slated to be completed by 2023 as well, and when complete, it will be able to increase production of low-sulphur fuel to meet the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) 0.5 per cent requirement for all ships by next January.
"A part of our project was driven by regulation, the IMO 2020 regulation around maritime bunker fuels and the reduction in sulphurates," said Linde's Asia-Pacific chief executive Sanjiv Lamba at a press conference on its investment.
Linde chief executive Steve Angel added that the expanded plant takes bottom-of-the barrel, heavy residuals from ExxonMobil to put through a gasification process producing hydrogen and other products that would be returned to the company.
"We're also serving other customers on Jurong Island... The Singapore Refining Company, for example," said Mr Angel.
"Singapore has always been very important to Linde. There has been about US$200 million of investment that has been made over the last 20 years and we're going to increase that by a factor of seven in one single project."
The investment has also been held up by Cabinet ministers as one of several significant ones this year, including those by British home appliance maker Dyson and global healthcare company GSK, that are testament to Singapore's strong fundamentals despite slowing economic growth.
Mr Lamba said the new facility will add around 70 "high-value manufacturing jobs" in Singapore as well, to its current headcount here of around 240.
The new roles range from an operations manager for the new complex, to process specialists and special technical personnel looking after instrumentation, electricals as well as major machinery.
Economic Development Board managing director Chng Kai Fong said: "Linde's partnership with ExxonMobil is illustrative of the collaborative, integrated ecosystem on Jurong Island, which enables companies in the energy and chemicals sector to establish competitive and reliable supply chains.
"We hope to continue working with Linde, and other like-minded companies, to develop more advanced manufacturing facilities that create good jobs for Singaporeans," he said.
Over the next four years, Linde Gas Singapore will also be executing a number of projects, including a series of modifications and interconnections to integrate the new complex and its existing facility.
This will ensure continuity of gas supplies to its existing customers on Jurong Island during the construction period, said Linde.