Singapore plans worldscale MTO plant

05 June 2007 16:49  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS news)--Singapore has enlisted local and multinational chemical companies to carry out feasibility studies into building a worldscale methanol-to-olefins complex, a senior official said on Tuesday.


The Economic Development Board (EDB), the body responsible for stimulating chemical developments in Singaporewants to capitalise on the growth in methane-to-chemicals technology through the development of a plant with more than 1m tonnes/year of olefins capacity within the next five years, said EDB executive director Julian Ho.


The project would cost at least $1bn (€740m). 


Ho told ICIS news that to be cost-competitive, methane would need to be processed to methanol near sources of feedstock such as the Middle East and then transported to Singapore for conversion.


“We are studying this seriously and want to realise it in Singapore in the next five years. Singapore is not near gas feedstocks. But new technologies for gas-to-chemicals are developing and this changes the game somewhat," Ho said.


"It will provide yet another dimension for chemical feedstocks.”


Ho said that Jurong Island would be the ideal location for the complex because it houses the country’s existing chemicals hub.


With the forecast growth in basic chemical production in the Middle East and China, Ho said Singapore wanted to differentiate itself as a chemical hub by moving downstream into higher value products such as elastomers, advanced engineering plastics, marine, aerospace and automotive coatings and electronic materials such as semi-conductor wafers.


Singapore has a small domestic market so it was focusing on implementing free trade agreements to make exports more competitive.  


Ho said chemical companies would choose Singapore over other locations because it had a good reputation for protecting intellectual property rights and could provide a range of other incentives to invest.  


Industry observers questioned how realistic it would be to locate a methane-to-methanol plant in Singapore. They said that any Middle East country with reserves of methane would want to convert it to downstream products itself, rather than export, to capture value.


A five-year timeframe for construction was also very optimistic, they added.


($1 = €0.74)


By: Will Beacham
+44 20 8652 3214

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