In southwestern Singapore long before the making of Jurong Island, the outlying islands of Pulau Ayer Chawan, Pulau Ayer Merbau, Pulau Merlimau and Pulau Seraya were used to house fishing communities comprising small villages up to the 1960s. The villagers lived in Malay-style wooden stilt houses on the palm-fringed islands.
Between the late 1960s and early 70s, three oil companies built oil refinery facilities on three of the southwestern islands off mainland Singapore: Esso on Pulau Ayer Chawan, Singapore Refining Company on Pulau Merlimau, and Mobil Oil on Pulau Pesek. These projects made Singapore one of the top three oil refining centres in the world at the time.3 In order to maintain Singapore’s global competitive edge, the government’s development strategy was to make a “quantum leap” by building up and integrating the petroleum and petrochemical industries. To implement this strategy, more industrial land was needed. However, there was a scarcity of industrial land on the main island of Singapore. Reclaiming land with waterfrontage for industrial use became the preferred solution and one that suited the petroleum and petrochemical industries.5
By 1985, the government had enlarged four southwestern islands through reclamation works: Pulau Seraya between 1982 and 1983 for a power station; Pulau Ayer Merbau in 1984 for the Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore’s first chemical complex in Singapore; Pulau Pesek Kechil in 1985 for a holding station for imported pigs; and the merging of Pulau Sakra and Pulau Bakau in 1985 into Pulau Sakra for potential industrial lessees.6 In 1988, a more massive project to reclaim around 650 ha of land off Tuas, commonly known as the Tuas Hockey Stick, was successfully completed
Jurong Island is the heart of Singapore’s chemical and energy industry, acting as the operational base for leading petroleum and petrochemical companies such as DuPont, Celanese Chemicals and Chevron.
In 2007, the construction of the Jurong Rock Caverns, Southeast Asia’s first commercial underground storage facility for liquid hydrocarbons (such as crude oil, condensate, naphtha and gas oil), began 130 m beneath the seabed of Banyan Basin on Jurong Island. As tall as a nine-storey building, each of the five caverns measured 27 m high, 20 m wide and 340 m long. They provide 1.47-million cu m of storage space in total, the equivalent of 580 Olympic-sized swimming pools
To enhance Jurong Island’s competitiveness and sustainability, the Jurong Island Version 2.0 initiative was launched in 2010 to review five key areas: energy; logistics and transportation; feedstock options; environment; and water. One area identified for future growth is the ramping up of Singapore’s clean technology capabilities. This has resulted in the building of a liquefied natural-gas terminal on the island to increase Singapore’s energy options as well as to support the switch to more environmentally friendly fossil fuels
Jurong Island processes 1,300,000 barrels of oil per day. Natural gas from West Natuna field arrives on the island via a 640km offshore pipeline.
(Source: Singapore National Library Board – Image: Jurong Island in the 90s/The Business Times – Tuas in 1980)