Singapore's first coal-burning utility plant now operational

The first utility plant to burn coal here is now operational. The first stage of Tuas Power's $2 billion Tembusu Multi-Utilities Complex on Jurong Island has been up and running since August 2012, and will be officially opened next week.

It burns low-sulphur coal, palm kernel shells and wood chips, and natural gas or diesel to supply steam and electricity to industries on the island. Its customers - petrochemical firms like Asahi Kasei, Dairen and Lanxess - save about 10 per cent on their utility bills as fuel costs are about 10 per cent lower than burning gas alone. What ever electricity it does not sell to customers is used for its operations or channelled into the national grid.

The choice of coal drew flak from environment groups for its high carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to climate change. But it was chosen to diversify the plant's fuel mix for energy security, and because coal prices are less volatile than oil prices, said Tuas Power chief executive Mr Lim Kong Puay.

The plant employs about 100 workers, nine in ten of whom are Singaporean, and is seeking to fill about 50 more positions.

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