Methanol exports by next year
By Sonia K.

Methanol produced in Brunei will be ready for export mainly to Japan in less than one year.

This bold prediction was made by the Acting Chairman of the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) Dato Paduka Timothy Ong in an interview with the Borneo Bulletin yesterday.

This would be possible when the Brunei Darussalam Methanol Plant, the first petrochemical plant in the Sultanate is scheduled to commence production early 2010.

The USD 450 million Methanol Plant is the first major investment at SPARK and developed by the Brunei Methanol Company, a joint venture between Petroleum Brunei and two leading Japanese companies, Mitsubishi Gas Chemical and Itochu, according to Dato Paduka Timothy Ong,

"In less than a year from now, we should start exporting to Japan. So we are coming close already.

We no longer need to say that it would take two years or three years, because now we are very close, Dato Paduka Timothy Ong said.

He also said during the exclusive interview with the Bulletin that at the moment, BEDB is already building a Single Point Mooring (SPM), an export facility for taking the methanol from the plant out to sea and then loading the methanol onto tankers.

"In other words, the methanol project we are talking about is becoming a reality," Dato Ong added.

Citing the ever deepening global economic slump, Dato Ong shared with us three major reasons why this will not be the case for Brunei Darussalam and how in this worldwide financial uncertainty could prove to be an opportune moment for the country's future transformation.

"Brunei's economic future looks very good. At a time when the world is in crisis, Brunei is an oasis," the acting chairman said.

Explaining why he thinks Brunei's future looks very good at this point is due to a couple of factors. The first is that Brunei is beginning to implement with great vigour, its National Development Plan, which is the nation's infrastructure budget.

The total value of the current National Development Plan is B$9.5 billion, for 2007-2012. This is the nation's investment in the future infrastructure, both soft and hard.

Hard infrastructure would be schools; roads, airports and new universities while soft infrastructure would be human resources development, education and IT.

"But bearing in mind that we are a country of less that 400,000 people, this is actually a very large figure. And we are beginning to implement this RKN and this will result in a lot of stimulus for the domestic economy," he added.

"Other countries refer to this as stimulus package. In Brunei, because the financial crisis has not affected us directly, we don't call it a stimulus package but the effect will be equivalent to a stimulus package."

The second reason for optimism as we understand is, the territorial dispute over the deep water Block J is close to a resolution.

"And as we understand it, this could result in a doubling of our oil output, within a period of six years. It cannot be immediate because you need to mobilise. TOTAL would need to hire rigs to start drilling with earnest for oil and the whole infrastructure for producing oil will have to be put in to this," he added

"But it can be done and according to BEDB's estimate, which is six years. Our estimate is that this could result in the doubling of Brunei's oil output. This is a significant plus factor for Brunei's economic future," Dato Ong added.

The third reason for optimism, according to Dato Ong is that BEDB is beginning to make some progress in their attempts to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in to Brunei.

"Particularly in areas relating to the oil and gas industry downstream as well as in sectors beyond that," he added. - Borneo Bulletin (7th Mar 2009)