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Should Indonesia Add Capacity?

Aromatics, China, Company Strategy, Indonesia, Middle East, Projects, South Korea
By John Richardson on 21-Oct-2009




Pert.jpgSource of picture: wartakota.co.id


WESTERNERS can often by unbelievably patronising about Asia’s efforts to climb up the economic self-sufficiency ladder.

“South Korea has no business being in petrochemicals,” said a very annoying US industry executive many years ago – one of those situations where your correspondent wanted to punch someone’s lights out (this wouldn’t have been such a good idea as he later informed me, over a couple of beers, that he used to play quarterback for his college Gridiron team).

Similarly, I became defensive on behalf of Indonesia and Pertamina the other week when criticism was levied at a “hybrid” plan to add new refinery and petrochemicals capacity.

I know too well, though, as Indonesia used to be my “patch” in the late 1990s, that corruption has been an issue.

The country’s refining and petrochemical industries have repeatedly promised much, but have failed to live up to expectations.

And you could say to Pertamini, “Why bother?” seen as so much refining and petchem capacity is being added in the Middle East.

China might even end up being self-sufficient in refinery products.

But the state-owned oil, gas and refining major recognises this – hence the idea of adding capacity and sourcing from overseas, said Heru Sutrisno, the company’s vice-president of strategic development and business development.

He was speaking at last week’s Asia Downstream Roundtable event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – organised by the World Refining Association. Click here for a copy of the presentation – 3 Heru Sutrisno.pdf.

Standing still would mean Indonesia would be short of 289,000 barrels per day of refinery capacity by 2012.

The main shortages are forecast to be in Java and Bali where two-thirds of oil-product demand might have to be imported by 2015.

Capacity additions would include building a new 300,000 barrels per day refinery – in two stages of 150,000 barrels per day – at Banten Bay in West Java. National Iranian Oil Co has committed 150,000 barrels a day to the project for 25 years.

Also under study is using condensate to boost petrochemical production and constructing a linear-alkyl benzene (LAB) plant fed by n-paraffin feedstock

Work is progressing on a 250,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) project, due on-stream at the Balongan refinery complex in West Java in 2011.

Dow Chemical’s UNIPOL technology has been selected for the new facility which will receive feedstock from a residue fluid catalytic cracker.

There have been a lot of positive political and economic changes in Indonesia since the late 1990s, making an investment case for refining and petrochemicals far stronger. 

 But does the Pertamina plan really add up?