Petronas plans refinery, petchem complex near Singapore

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, May 13 -- Malaysia’s state-run Petronas reported plans to construct a $20 billion refinery and petrochemicals complex at Pengerang in southern Johor state that would raise the country’s total refining capacity to 935,300 b/d.

The development, to be called Refinery and Petrochemicals Integrated Development, or Rapid, is expected to be commissioned by yearend 2016.

The Rapid project, which is still at the detailed feasibility study stage, will comprise a 300,000-b/d refinery, a 3 million tonne/year naphtha cracker, and a petrochemical and polymer complex. The project will boost Petronas' total domestic and overseas refining capacity to 748,000 b/d and its Malaysian capacity to 623,000 b/d, the company said.

Described by Petronas as “greater in scale and scope” than its Melaka, Kertih, and Gebeng complexes combined, Rapid is expected to turn Johor into another major petroleum and petrochemical center in the region.

Some analysts, however, questioned whether such a large and costly project as Rapid would be able to a find a market.

Alex Yap, a consultant at FACTS, said the difficulty is that Asia as a whole is still oversupplied, and that moving forward, East Asia and India will continue to export heavily. Yap added that while demand in Southeast Asia is rising, there are still large exports from Thailand and Singapore.

The proposed cost is huge, even if compared with the megaprojects in the Middle East, which have larger capacities, Yap said, adding that the project can be seen as viable only as a cornerstone of the government's regional development project, and a means to eliminate Malaysia's longer-term import requirements.

Tilak Doshi, chief economist at the Energy Studies Institute in Singapore, said that if the project is aimed at high valued-added petrochemical products, then that would add something to the economics.

"If it is not, then I am stumped because you have Reliance there, a major exporter, and just around the corner one of the most efficient refining centers in Singapore,” said Doshi. “Plus you have the Vietnams and Chinas, who have refining capacity for their own domestic use."

Meanwhile, to support the development of Rapid, Petronas said it also is looking into the possibility of building an LNG receiving and regasification terminal in the area.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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