Historic day as His Majesty opens Brunei Methanol plant
By Liza Mohd

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday morning marked the nation's historical milestone in the development of downstream industries by officiating the opening of Brunei Methanol Company (BMC), which is the nation's first petrochemical project.

His Majesty was greeted on arrival at the methanol plant in the Sungai Liang Industrial Park site by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II as Chairman of Petroleum Brunei, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Awang Lim Jock Seng, and Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister's Office Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Dewa Major General (Rtd) Dato Seri Pahlawan Awg Hj Mohammad Hj Daud and the management and representatives of BMC, Petroleum Brunei, ITOCHU Corporation, Mitsubishi Gas Corporation, BEDB, SLA and also Embassy of Japan in Brunei Darussalam and Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

The Chief Executive Officer Kinya Tsuji in his welcoming address said BMC was established on March 13, 2006 as an international joint venture company with the objective to build, own and operate Brunei's methanol plant. The construction works of the plant was completed in 2009 and it produced methanol on April 27 this year.

Although BMC is a new company in Brunei Darussalam, he emphasised that methanol manufactured from the Sultanate will have its place of prominence in the global methanol industry and it will strive to contribute towards the positive enhancement of the country's social and economic landscape.

In terms of human resource capability building, he noted that BMC has sent young Bruneian technicians to be trained in various parts of the world, such as in Japan and South America, in order to equip them with the necessary technical know-how and skills to work in the new industry in the country.

Meanwhile, Chairman of Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company Incorporated (MGC) Hideki Odaka, in his speech expressed gratitude after their dream of building a methanol plant in Brunei 16 years ago has been realised.

He informed that methanol is MGC's core business product and added he was proud of their technology for methanol production process and methanol plant operation.

MGC also has methanol plants in Saudi Arabia and Venezuela with combined capacities of 6.7 million tonnes per year.

"However it is our long desire to have a methanol plant in the centre of Asia, where there is a huge and rapidly growing market."

He added that in the coming years, they assure that BMC will be another symbol of the strong economic relationship between Brunei and Japan. Mr Eizo Kobayashi, Chairman of ITOCHU Corporation, in his speech said BMC owes its successful operation today to Brunei's other resources such as electricity, water, infrastructure and the Bruneian people.

He expressed strong belief that the Brunei methanol plant would produce a competitive product, bring added value to society and further contribute to the industrial development in the Sultanate.

As one of the shareholders, ITOCHU Corporation since its establishment has practised the policy of 'Sanpou-yoshi' which means 'Good for the buyer, Good for the seller and Good for the Society'. The policy has since been adapted in the current Corporate Credo of 'ITOCHU', committed to the global good, social, economic and individual benefits. Therefore they hope to uphold the spirit of 'Sanpou-yoshi' through the participation of this project.

After the speeches, His Majesty consented to officiate the opening of Brunei's first methanol plant by activating a device to lift the methanol symbol from the display chrome casing. As His Majesty marked history with the official launching, the Japanese drum (Wadaiko) and Hadrah were played in the background to highlight the economic and strong relationship between Brunei and Japan.

His Majesty then signed the commemorative plaque to signify the official opening.

Later, the ruler toured the methanol plant, which included the central control room where the ruler was briefed by BMC Chief Executive Officer about the process of production.

The nation's first methanol plant is a joint venture between Brunei National Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd, holding half of the share, and two leading Japanese companies MGC and Itochu Corporation, each of them holding a 25 per cent share.

The US$600 million BMC is the largest investment in Brunei outside of oil and gas and is the first tenant in the Sungai Liang industrial site.

The plant is capable of producing 2,500 metric tonnes per day or 850,000 metric tonnes of methanol per year for export to markets in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia as well as India and the United States.

For the production of methanol, BSP will supply an average of 2.3 million cubic feet of gas per day for the next 22 years under an agreement.

The plant currently employs 172 Bruneian staff including three expatriates. Almost 70 per cent of all job positions in the plant are technical based.

Methanol is an important primary material for chemical industries as it has great potential to develop into wide varieties of derivatives, which could be moulded into tough, durable plastic parts such as hardware materials or parts for LCD television screens among others. - Borneo Bulletin (26th May 2010)