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Shell Eastern Petrochemicals Complex tour
Take a closer look at the Shell Eastern Petrochemicals Complex: accessible version
The chemicals facilities that have been delivered by the Shell Eastern Petrochemicals Complex (SEPC) investment project are open for business. Explore this tour today to find out much more about this exciting project.
Button: Click to take a closer look
Singapore is already the centre of Shell’s petrochemical interests in Asia Pacific. It also gives ready access to nearby growth markets like China. It was a natural choice for expansion.
SEPC is Shell’s largest-ever petrochemicals investment and biggest single investment in Singapore. It will produce basic petrochemicals like ethylene and propylene plus mono ethylene glycol, a key raw material for the textile and packaging industries.
- Shell is a global player in the petrochemicals sector, with a strategy to balance its existing assets in North America and Europe with increased capacity in Asia Pacific, where the markets are growing.
- The SEPC project has integrated Shell’s Bukom Refiner with new petrochemical assets to form Shell’s largest integrated refining/chemical complex. Integration delivers economic and efficiency benefits, in terms of feedstocks, operations and logistics.
- Most of the mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) produced at SEPC will be used in China, where MEG demand is growing at around 6% a year.
For Shell, Singapore is a special place. Operations started there in 1891 and Shell built the country’s first refinery on Pulau Bukom in 1961. Today, Shell remains one of the country’s largest foreign investors.
SEPC spans two islands: Bukom and Jurong, with product being transferred via an undersea pipeline infrastructure.
- Building on islands has meant working in unusually confined spaces, especially where the petrochemical plant is being integrated with a ‘live’ refinery.
- Huge quantities of raw materials have had to be taken on-site by boat - from massive super-structures to office equipment and catering supplies.
Video: Interview with Iain Lo, Vice President New Business Development and Ventures
Construction started at SEPC in September 2006. Up to 15,000 people have been working on the total project at peak. Workers leaving the construction phase re-enter the job market with enhanced craft and safety skills.
The project has achieved an outstanding safety record. Between January and November 2009, nearly 38 million man-hours were worked without a Lost-Time Injury, remarkable for a major construction project.
- The workforce has been truly multicultural. It has embraced 20 countries and seven main languages.
- Part of the commitment of Shell to the workers’ welfare was providing quality accommodation, nutrition and health. Thousands of workers have been housed in purpose-built accommodation.
- Inexperienced workers were coached on critical issues like heat stress and drinking enough water. To keep everyone well-fed, on-site canteens served up to 25,000 meals a day, using six tonnes of rice.
- The project has helped to raise safety standards in Singapore by stimulating a new training programme for safety professionals.
- Operators of the new plants, the great majority from Singapore, have been given extensive training and gained experience in similar sites around the world.
Photo gallery: SEPC workers
The BUKOM refinery, Shell’s largest, has been making fuels and other oil products for over 50 years. Modifications to the refinery have enabled it to deliver essential hydrocarbon feedstocks to the neighbouring cracker complex.
The refinery varies its output of fuels to respond to changing market needs. The cracker complements this flexibility by being able to utilise the range of different by-products coming out of the refinery under changing market conditions. An ideal partnership.
- A new jetty and storage facility loads and discharges refrigerated ethylene to and from the ships. It is the first terminal of its kind Shell has installed in Singapore.
- Modifying the refinery was much like doing 'open heart surgery'. The refinery had to keep on pumping out fuels at the same time as complex, invasive changes to units like the hydrocracker were made. It was a meticulous, challenging operation.
- In support of this project, land reclamation was carried out by the Singapore Government.
- The Bukom Refinery processes over 500,000 barrels a day of crude oil, enough to fuel 3.9 million cars.
Video: Huck Poh, General Manager, Bukom site.
Cracking is the process of breaking down large molecules into smaller ones. Almost any hydrocarbon can be cracked into a range of basic petrochemicals containing different combinations of carbon and hydrogen molecules.
The materials that come out of the cracker are called either olefins or aromatics. Together, they provide the starting point for making so many of the essential materials that surround us in our modern world.
- To crack hydrocarbons, you first have to heat them intensively - to temperatures in excess of 800°C (about 1500°F)
- Gases coming out of the furnace are so hot they will continue to crack, in the same way that food continues to cook when you take it off the heat. So the gases are 'quenched' in oil and water to cool them down.
- Having been compressed and chilled, the component parts can be separated out, either in the form of gases, like ethylene, or liquids, like benzene.
- By-products of the cracking process can be recycled into the refinery or used to feed the furnace, with a view to making the most of every single hydrocarbon.
Image: ECC plant units
MEG plant view
The MEG plant breaks new ground. At 750 kilotonnes, it is one of the largest MEG plants in the world. It is also the biggest unit to use Shell’s award-winning Only Mono-Ethylene Glycol Advantage (OMEGA) technology.
The MEG plant has been completed on-time and on-budget, thanks to the 2000-strong workforce that has built it over three years. Throughout that time, not one worker has sustained an injury serious enough to require time off work.
- Over 210,000 metres of electric cable run throughout the plant. That's nearly enough to stretch around the whole of Singapore twice.
- The plant uses 'NEWater', Singapore’s high-grade recycled water supply, so freeing up more drinkable water for domestic use.
Video: Timelapse of reactor lift.
Photo gallery: MEG plant units
The OMEGA (Only Mono Ethylene Glycol Advantage) process is Shell’s newest technology. It combines a catalyst for the conversion of ethylene to ethylene oxide (EO) with a catalytic process to convert EO to mono-ethylene glycol (MEG).
Shell companies have a long history in the manufacture of MEG. Shell’s EO catalysts are sold to third parties and have a global market share of about 55%, while its EO/EG technology is widely licensed.
- The OMEGA process delivers the highest commercially available yield from ethylene oxide to mono-ethylene glycol - over 99%.
- The OMEGA process uses less steam and water than conventional plants and emits less CO2 per tonne of MEG produced.
The products that come out of the cracker complex (ethylene, propylene, benzene and butadiene) are converted into materials that are used to make countless everyday products. Demand for these basic petrochemicals continues to grow, year on year.
Mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) is also used to produce a wide range of products. 70% of the world’s MEG is consumed in Asia Pacific, a key strategic benefit of locating the plant in Singapore. China is the largest single user of MEG in the world.
- The annual output from the MEG plant of 750 kt is enough to produce over 2 million tonnes of polyester. That’s enough to make a polyester shirt for every person in the world!
- Around 50% of MEG is used to make polyester fibres, which are then spun or woven into many other products.
- Some 25% of MEG goes into PET, a material used to make food and drinks packaging and to protect items like new electrical goods. PET packaging is recyclable into either more packaging or fibres.
- Materials like propylene are widely used to make car parts and, being lightweight but strong, help make more fuel-efficient, safer cars.
- Computers, phones and many other electrical devices owe their existence to petrochemicals. The different materials used in circuit boards and computer housings, for example, both have their beginnings in benzene.
- Detergents, shampoos and other cleaning materials are among the many products that can be traced back to ethylene.