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Emissions of new Jurong Island coal gasification plant will be ‘closely monitored’

SINGAPORE – The new coal gasification plant on Jurong Island will be subject to the carbon tax that kicks in next year, and its emissions will be “closely monitored to minimise the impact on the environment”, said Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang on Monday (Feb 19).

Emissions of new Jurong Island coal gasification plant will be ‘closely monitored’

TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE – The new coal gasification plant on Jurong Island will be subject to the carbon tax that kicks in next year, and its emissions will be “closely monitored to minimise the impact on the environment”, said Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang on Monday (Feb 19).

Mr Lim was replying to Nee Soon Member of Parliament Louis Ng, who questioned how the new plant – which will feed the refining and chemicals industries – would align with Singapore’s climate commitments.

Coal is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming.

The Government has designated 2018 the Year of Climate Action, but the coal gasification plant will increase Singapore’s carbon footprint. Mr Ng questioned how the different messages sent out to the public could be reconciled.

Keppel Infrastructure, a division of Keppel Corporation, was selected last year by the Economic Development Board (EDB) to develop and operate the facility.

The plant will produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide – or feedstock – from coal for the energy and chemicals sector.

The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources has worked with the EDB and Keppel Infrastructure to put in place strict regulations and standards on emissions of carbon-dioxide and air pollutants, said Mr Lim.

The plant will deploy best-in-class mitigation technologies and will recycle potentially hazardous fly ash that will be generated.

The authorities had explored different ways of producing the feedstock, and gasification appears to be the “most sensible approach”, said Mr Lim.

The Government tries to achieve a “delicate balance” between business opportunities and its environmental commitments, he said.

“On the one hand, we have a fairly thriving chemicals and energy sector, contributing to 1.8 per cent of our gross domestic product, employing more than 25,000 workers, all very good jobs,” he said. “At the same time, we’ve made very strong commitments on the Paris Agreement and the Singapore Government intends to meet those commitments.”

Singapore has pledged to cut its emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels, by 2030.

Mr Lim said the coal gasification plant is needed because Singapore’s refining capacity of 1.3 million barrels per day has “not changed for many decades”.

“So we need the additional feedstock and therefore we’ve looked towards gasification of coal,” he said.

The plant is not for power generation, he added. “We want to assure members that in terms of energy generation, we’re still depending on gas, which is the least pollutive of all, supplemented by solar energy in a limited way.”

Meanwhile, Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan asked if Singapore banks would be required to restrict lending for coal power projects, in the wake of reports that DBS, OCBC and UOB have provided loans totalling more than US$2 billion over the last five years for 21 such projects in countries like Indonesia and Vietnam.

Local banks recognise the environmental, social and governance risks of coal power projects, said Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the Minister-in-charge of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The region’s energy needs are growing rapidly and consumption of all fuels – including coal and renewables – will grow.

Singapore banks have been taking steps towards more environmentally responsible financing practices, added Mr Ong, who is also Second Minister for Defence.

With guidelines issued in 2015 by the Association of Banks in Singapore, the banks are reviewing their clients’ sustainability profiles and working with the clients to improve practices. By the end of this year, the banks are expected to complete a review of their entire customer portfolios, said Mr Ong.

The authorities are also taking steps to enhance the green-finance ecosystem in Singapore, such as expanding the breadth and depth of green-finance products, he said.

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