Located off the southwestern coast of Singapore, Jurong Island is a manmade island formed through successive land reclamation works that joined up several offshore islands, namely Pulau Ayer Chawan, Pulau Ayer Merbau, Pulau Merlimau, Pulau Pesek, Pulau Pesek Kechil (also called Terumbu Pesek), Pulau Sakra (merged earlier from Pulau Sakra and Pulau Bakau), Pulau Seraya, Pulau Meskol, Pulau Mesemut Laut, Pulau Mesemut Darat and Anak Pulau.1 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.2
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.4 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.7 These early reclamations, with the Tuas Hockey Stick being significant in terms of scale and economic viability, bolstered the confidence of the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) to amalgamate the southern islands off Jurong to form one huge land mass. In the late 1980s, JTC finalised its concept plan for the amalgamation works and, in 1991, became the agent responsible for developing Jurong Island.8
Creation of Jurong Island
Reclamation works for Jurong Island began in 1995 and were completed in 2009 – 20 years ahead of schedule. The reclamation amalgamated several islands comprising some 991 ha into a huge island of 3,000 ha.9 The reclamation project was initially planned as a three-phased exercise costing S$7 billion, but more phases were added along the way. Phase 1 reclaimed 203 ha, Phase 2 and 3A 478 ha, and Phase 3B 977 ha.10 Phase 4 began in 2000 and reclaimed 550 ha.11 Small-scale reclamation works have continued over the years in order to support the growth of companies on Jurong Island, which had grown to 3,200 ha (32 sq km) by 2015.12 The reclamation of 70 ha of land at Ayer Chawan Basin in 2013 is an example of the ongoing work to enlarge the island.13
Integrated chemical hub
Jurong Island was conceptualised to operate as an integrated chemical hub with “a vertically integrated structure where the output from one plant becomes the input for another, allowing them to feed off each other symbiotically”.14 This concept enabled entire clusters along a chemical production chain to be located on the island to interlink their production processes. The integration of utilities and logistics infrastructure on the island created production synergies that allowed companies to have a cost-efficient structure, saving up to 30 percent on capital outlay and 15 percent on transport.15
Jurong Island was outfitted with three types of networks: an infrastructural network of service corridors, utilities, logistic services, power, roads, sewerage and telecommunications; an integrated network of tightly synergised companies; and an IT network allowing companies to operate on a common e-business platform. These networks enabled companies locating their plants on the island to set up operations easily.16 The integration concept meant that JTC was not seeking individual company investments, but rather chains of companies, with Jurong Island serving as the base for third-party suppliers that supported entire industry clusters.17
Attracting foreign companies
JTC wanted to attract the world’s leading companies in the petroleum and petrochemical industries to Jurong Island. In 1992, active marketing for the island began, but it was difficult to sell the initiative between then and 1995 because reclamation works had not yet begun and companies could not see the benefits of integration and amalgamation.18
JTC and the Economic Development Board (EDB) worked closely to help companies establish their plants smoothly on Jurong Island. Areas of assistance offered included taking an equity stake in an enterprise, sharing manpower training costs and identifying suitable third-party service providers. For example, SembCorp Utilities and Terminals was brought in to provide chemical companies with utilities and other related services.19 The first lessee was DuPont, which rented a plot on Sakra in 1990. In 1995, Celanese Chemicals signed to locate a US$10-million plant in the Sakra zone and this triggered interest in plots on Sakra from major global companies such as Chevron, Sumitomo Chemical, Mitsui Chemical and Eastman. The petroleum and petrochemical industries on Jurong lsland grew quickly thereafter, from a mere five companies in 1995 to more than 100 energy and chemical companies by 2014, with assets totalling over S$47 billion.20
Development of facilities
By 2000, over 6,000 people were working on Jurong Island. Most of them commuted between the main island of Singapore and Jurong Island via a road link into Pulau Merlimau that was built in 1999.21 A workers’ quarters known as the Jurong Island Dormitory was also built on the island to house foreign workers from countries such as Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Myamar, the Philippines and China. The island’s landscape of sprawling factories, towering chimneys, massive tanks and pipe networks set in an arid, dusty atmosphere gave it a sense of being a “frontier land”.22 Oasis@Sakra – an amenities centre housing a 750-seat air-conditioned food court, an al fresco restaurant, a medical centre and other basic amenities – was completed in 2000.23
In 2001, Jurong Island was gazetted as a protected area and troops from the Singapore Armed Forces were deployed to guard the island.24 A fire station was built on Jurong Island in 1998, a decade after the worst refinery fire in Singapore’s history broke out on Pulau Merlimau.25 A second fire station was built in 2008.26 The following year, a reversible traffic flow scheme was implemented at Jurong Pier Flyover and along Jurong Island Highway to improve traffic flow into and out of Jurong Island.27 Evacuation exercises are conducted regularly on the island to prepare for emergencies that may arise, such as leakage of flammable material or a fire.28
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.29 Officially opened on 2 September 2014 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the operation of the caverns was awarded to Banyan Caverns Storage Services, a consortium comprising Vopak Terminals Singapore, Geostock SAS and Jurong Consultants.30 Jurong Aromatics Corporation was the first company to utilise the caverns, which were used to store condensate, a feedstock for its aromatics complex that was then being built on Jurong Island.31
Key pillar of the economy
The production output of the oil refining industry on Jurong Island reached 1.5 million barrels per day in 2014, making Singapore one of the top 10 exporters of refined oil products in Asia.32 The petroleum, petrochemical and specialty chemical industries together form a key pillar of Singapore’s economy, accounting for some 34 percent of the country’s total manufacturing output in 2014 worth over S$100 billion.33 In 2015, total investments on Jurong Island exceeded S$35 billion.34
Planning for the future
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.35
1. Jurong Town Corporation, The Making of Jurong Island: The Right Chemistry (Singapore: Jurong Town Corporation, 2000), 16, 46. (Call no. RSING 711.5524095957 MAK)
2. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 37.
3. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 17; “Realising Jurong Island's Potential,” Business Times, 1 December 2009, 31. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “Realising Jurong Island's Potential.”
5. Jurong Town Corporation, Annual Report 1983/84 (Singapore: Jurong Town Corporation, 1984), 8–9. (Call no. RCLOS 352.0072 JTCAR-[AR])
6. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 19; Jurong Town Corporation, Annual Report 1985/86 (Singapore: Jurong Town Corporation, 1984), 5. (Call no. RCLOS 352.0072 JTCAR-[AR])
7. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 19; Yeo Kim Seng, “Tuas' New Land as Large as 2 Sentosas,” Straits Times, 12 November 1988, 1 (From NewspaperSG); Jurong Town Corporation, Annual Report 1987/88 (Singapore: Jurong Town Corporation, 1984), 5, 10. (Call no. RCLOS 352.0072 JTCAR-[AR])
8. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 20; National University of Singapore. Department of Architecture and Jurong Town Corporation, Jurong Island: Planning and Designing for an Ecological Industrial Park (Singapore: Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore and Jurong Town Corporation, 2000), 11. (Call no. RSING q711.5524095957 JUR)
9. “Jurong Island, 20 Years Ahead of Schedule,” Today, 26 September 2009, 24. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Jurong Town Corporation, Annual Report 1998/99 (Singapore: Jurong Town Corporation, 1984), 25, 28. (Call no. RCLOS 352.0072 JTCAR-[AR])
11. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 55; “Links Island Unit Bags Sub-Contract,” Straits Times, 25 October 2000, 87. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “Page 1 Advertisements Column 1,” Business Times, 17 August 2015, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Jurong Town Corporation, Annual Report 2012 (Singapore: Jurong Town Corporation, 2013), 25.
14. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 31.
15. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 78.
16. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 32 65; “Jurong Island: Full Steam Ahead,” Business Times, 13 October 2000, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 33.
18. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 33–35.
19. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 34.
20. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 37–38, 61; “Page 1 Advertisements Column 1.”
21. Jurong Town Corporation, Annual Report 1998/99, 28; Choo Bee Yian, “Ride to Jurong Island,” Straits Times, 31 March 1999, 37. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Laurel Teo, “Jurong Island-Petrochemical Hub,” Straits Times, 27 March 2000, 38. (From NewspaperSG)
23. Jurong Town Corporation, Making of Jurong Island, 71.
24. “Jurong Guards,” New Paper, 6 November 2002, 6 (From NewspaperSG); “Jurong Island,” Jurong Town Corporation, accessed 25 January 2016.
25. Chua Chin Hon, “Jurong Island to Get Fire Station,” Straits Times, 10 October 1998, 51. (From NewspaperSG)
26. Esther Tan, “Second Fire Station to Be Built on Jurong Island,” Straits Times, 19 December 2008, 57. (From NewspaperSG)
27. “JTC Scheme Eases Traffic Flow into Jurong Island,” Business Times, 16 February 2009, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
28. Diana Othman, “Mock Evacuation at Jurong Island,” Straits Times, 16 February 2009, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
29. “Five Things to Know about the Jurong Rock Caverns,” Straits Times, 2 September 2014; Jurong Town Corporation, Annual Report 2007 (Singapore: Jurong Town Corporation, 2008), 15. (Call no. RSING 338.95957 JTCA-[AR])
30. Jurong Town Corporation, Annual Report 2013 (Singapore: Jurong Town Corporation, 2014), 19.
31. Lee Hsien Loong, “The Official Opening of the Jurong Rock Caverns,” speech, 2 September 2014, Prime Minister’s Office Singapore.
32. “Singapore: Leading Hub for Oil Products and Gas Trade,” Oil and Gas News, 31 August 2015. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
33. “Principal Statistics of Manufacturing By Industry Cluster, 2014,” Department of Statistics, Singapore, accessed 4 January 2016.
34. “Energy and Chemicals,” Economic Development Board, Singapore, accessed 31 August 2015.
35. Jurong Town Corporation, Annual Report 2010 (Singapore: Jurong Town Corporation, 2011), 12 (Call no. RSING 338.95957 JTCA-[AR]); “Singapore Opts for Cleaner Energy Sources,” Straits Times, 21 July 2015 (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); “Urban Solutions and Sustainability,” Economic Development Board, accessed 14 January 2016.
The information in this article is valid as of 1 March 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.