The main products produced by the Shell Eastern Petrochemicals Complex include:
- Ethylene – 800,000 tonnes per annum
- Propylene – 450,000 tonnes per annum
- Benzene – 230,000 tonnes per annum
- Butadiene - 155,000 tonnes per annum
- Mono-ethylene glycol – 810,000 tonnes per annum
Singapore is already Shell’s largest petrochemical production and export centre in the Asia Pacific region. Investments in the Singapore petrochemicals industry by Shell companies include a polyols plant, a joint-venture styrene monomer and propylene oxide plant (Ellba Eastern Ltd) and a number of other joint ventures.
The new ethylene cracker is located on Pulau Bukom (Bukom Island), to the south of mainland Singapore. The Shell Bukom refinery is the largest Shell refinery in the world in terms of crude distillation capacity, making Singapore a key regional supply and trading centre for the Shell Group. Some 90% of Bukom's products are exported to countries in the Asia Pacific region and beyond.
Jurong Island is to the west of Pulau Bukom and is linked to Bukom via undersea pipelines.
A key reason for building this project in Singapore is to capture the integration benefits of locating a world-scale cracker near a large refinery. It opens up numerous opportunities for optimisation of feedstocks, including crude and condensate, as well as intermediate streams within the refinery.
The MEG plant utilises Shell’s proprietary OMEGA process. In October 2008 this process won the Sellafield Ltd Award for Engineering Excellence at the IChemE (Institution of Chemicals Engineers) Innovation and Excellence Awards. In December 2008, OMEGA was a finalist in the engineering project of the year category at the Platts Energy Awards and in 2009, was a finalist for commercial technology of the year in the same competition.
The OMEGA process for ethylene oxide/MEG conversion is Shell’s newest technology and combines a CRI high selectivity catalyst for the conversion of ethylene to ethylene oxide (EO) with a catalytic process to convert EO to ethylene glycol.
In the conventional ethylene oxide/glycol process, ethylene reacts with pure oxygen at the ‘front end’ to produce ethylene oxide, producing CO2 as a by-product. There is some distillation to clean off the EO and then it moves to the ‘back end’ glycol section. A lot of water is used to react EO not only into MEG but also into by-products like diethylene glycol (DEG) and triethylene glycol (TEG).
The new OMEGA process in the ‘back end’ glycol section uses a circulating stream of CO2 to convert EO into ethylene carbonate, which is then reacted with water to produce MEG with almost no by-products.
The key to OMEGA's breakthrough lies in its combination of two complementary and highly selective processes which result in by far the lowest consumption of ethylene per tonne of MEG achieved so far in the industry. Other advantages include lower energy and water consumption, thus resulting in lower waste water production.
MEG and Shell
Shell companies have a long history in the manufacture of MEG with strengths in process technology, proprietary catalyst technologies, and manufacturing and marketing. Shell’s EO catalysts are sold to third parties and have a global market share of about 55%, while its EO/EG technology is licensed.
Environment & society
An Environmental, Social and Health Assessment (ESHA) study was commissioned, before construction work started on the site. The results were published in June 2006 and shared with the Singapore government.
Singapore complex ESHA study
As the project design was finalised, as part of the detailed engineering, an Addendum to the ESHA was carried out. It was completed in October 2007 and the results shared with the Singapore Government. The results are also available here.
Singapore complex ESHA Addendum October 2007
The SEPC team has also worked with the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) who held discussions with many NGOs on various aspects of the project that might impact the environment.
For example, when it emerged that work to reclaim land for the project was going to affect coral growing on the nearby reef, an exercise was undertaken to relocate the coral to a safe location. Reclamation methods have also been modified to minimise siltation and damage to corals near the reclamation area.
Construction activity at SEPC has employed up to 15,000 people at its peak. Once the complex is operational, it will require the support of around 200 highly skilled staff.
Developing safety skills
In 2008, SEPC sponsored a unique, tailor-made training scheme to recruit and train people for health, safety, security and environment (HSSE) related roles, with the first intake of 60 candidates starting their programmes in September 2008.
The candidates have worked at sub-projects across the SEPC sites and trained on-the-job as they have worked towards an internationally recognised NEBOSH certificate. The programme represents a significant investment to develop quality HSSE people in a fast track learning environment and supports Shell’s sustainable development goals by promoting the professionalism of safety supervisors and a proactive safety culture in Singapore.