Transcript of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's Speech at the Official Opening of the Jurong Rock Caverns on 2 September 2014

2 September 2014
 

Dr Loo Choon Yong, Chairman of JTC Corporation;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen:

I am delighted to be here this afternoon to open the Jurong Rock Caverns. This is Southeast Asia’s first commercial underground liquid hydrocarbons storage facility and we got it here in Singapore.

In land scarce Singapore, we are always trying to create new space – to support growth, to create jobs, and to build homes for our people.

Two months ago, I met the Board of Halliburton. They were having their board meeting here. They asked me this same question - how is Singapore going to expand our physical land area.

I explained to them that Singapore’s land constraint is a little bit like Peak Oil. It exists, there is a theoretical limit. But with ingenuity, determination and technology, that limit can be a quite a way off! And as you approach it, hopefully we can push it even further off in the future.

Take Jurong Island, where we are at now. This was ambitious project which we embarked on more than 20 years ago, when we reclaimed and amalgamated seven southern offshore islands to form this one Jurong Island.

We tripled its size from the original land area of 1,000 ha and we now host more than 100 energy and chemicals companies with collective investments of more than S$47 billion. We gave birth to a world-class petrochemical complex that is efficient and competitive, even though Singapore produces no crude oil or feedstock of its own. All the companies here buy their feedstock at world prices from world markets.

JRC was born out of this same spirit of innovation and determination. It costs more than doing it above ground - about 30% more to build infrastructure to store oil and condensate underground compared to reclaiming land on a per unit of crude oil or condensate basis. This endeavour also involved immense challenges and significant risks. But we pursued it because it was worthwhile - it freed up 60 hectares of surface land for higher value-added facilities and 60 hectares is enough to house up to six petrochemical plants. More importantly, it opened up for us further possibilities for development with the expertise and confidence that we gained building these caverns.

JRC shows that we are determined to develop the petrochemical industry here, despite our land constraints and also despite the potential impact on our petrochemical industry of a United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change agreement on carbon emissions which is presently being negotiated by the countries of the world. We will develop the petrochemical industry because the industry provides good jobs for Singaporeans, because it contributes significantly to our economy - in fact the chemicals industry comprise a third of our manufacturing output. And also because we are determined to find all ways to make a living for ourselves.

More broadly, the JRC demonstrates that we must constantly think out of the box, be bold in tackling our challenges, be tenacious in execution in order to create new space for ourselves whether it is physical space, whether it is space which is metaphorical, thinking space, international space, and development space. It is not just that the sky is the limit, but there are also fewer limits than we think to the depths to which we can go because we are limited only by our own imagination!

For example, JTC is exploring building an underground science city, an underground warehousing and logistics facility, potential underground caverns near the CleanTech Park. Not every project investigated will turn out to be feasible or commercially viable, but we will explore many. And our plans, some will come true, and they will demonstrate the exciting possibilities which we can realize.

I will like to thank everyone involved in this project, from the conception to completion, for your efforts. I had a sneak preview of the caverns a couple of weeks ago, the JRC people briefed me on the project, and I went down into the caverns, tramped around, had a sense of the scale and the size and the enormity of the project, and I was very impressed not just with what we have built, the project itself, but also with the team. Because while there are similar projects elsewhere, this JRC was exceptionally challenging, yet we completed it successfully.

So I congratulate JTC - the Chairman, the CEO and all the staff. I congratulate the JRC team, the project team, the contractors and all the workers, thousands of them who have worked so hard on this remarkable achievement!

It now gives me great pleasure to declare the Jurong Rock Caverns open. Thank you very much.

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