02 June 2014

CLEARLY, no oil refinery today is too big to fail. Just a while ago, the Australians were lamenting the closure of their refineries by the super majors like Shell, ExxonMobil, BP and Chevron - pointing, as the reason, to the bigger and more competitive Asian refineries like those in Singapore and South Korea.

But Shell recently also took the unprecedented step of writing off (even if only in the accounting sense) its 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) Bukom refinery - which, capacity-wise, is the largest in its global refining system. As even more competitive facilities emerge (like the shale gas-fuelled US refineries and new giant Middle East complexes), global refining margins have melted.

Amid this outlook, even the most ardent proponents like local oil trader Hin Leong know well enough to back off on its ambitions for a new greenfield refinery here. In China, powerhouses Sinopec and PetroChina have also scaled back billions of dollars in new refinery investments.

Still, while things look pretty bleak, Singapore's oil refining industry has always weathered the storms. While there have been some plant mothballings here in the past, including at Bukom, affected plants were put back into operation when business improved. To date, there has been only one Singapore refinery closure: this was back in 1995 when BP Singapore shut its small 28,000 bpd Pasir Panjang facility, but only because of land use issues.
Source: The Business Times, Singapore
Event date:
Friday, May 30, 2014