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Fuel for Thought: Singapore looks to next energy transition, this time away from oil

Fuel for Thought: Singapore looks to next energy transition, this time away from oil

Eric Yep: 29 December 2020


Shell, which started out as M. Samuel & Co. and built the first fuel depot in Singapore in the 1890s, said in November it was shutting half of its refining capacity on Singapore’s Pulau Bukom island, a move signaling the start of one era and the beginning of another for the energy hub.

Shell said Pulau Bukom will become one of its roughly six energy and chemicals parks and part of a “pivot from a crude-oil, fuels-based product slate towards new low-carbon value chains.”

Repurposing the facility will involve significant changes in refinery configuration, increased investment, and studies of products resilient to the energy transition, such as biofuels, specialties like bitumen, alternative feedstocks and renewable raw materials such as recycled chemicals, Shell said.

In 1961, Shell built Singapore’s first refinery on Pulau Bukom, beating rival Japanese trading company Maruzen Toyo, paving the way for the emergence of Singapore as the “Houston of the East.”

Speaking at the Singapore International Energy Week in late October, Aw Kah Peng, chairman of Shell Companies in Singapore, noted Shell had been a “very big part of how the Singapore energy system and chemical industry has developed over the decades,” and moving forward the company sees both a “huge challenge as well as a huge opportunity, given the hub role that Singapore has.”

She said some of Shell’s initiatives include the digitalization of Pulau Bukom, which houses its biggest fully owned refinery, putting electric vehicle chargers in retail stations, and working with the environment regulator on a plan to recycle 1 million mt of plastic waste by 2025, equal to all the plastic waste that Singapore generates.

Aw said it was important to scale up these new energy businesses because they must be economically competitive and viable, and not just at a pilot level.

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