(EnergyAsia, December 31 2012, Monday) — After more than a year of delay, ExxonMobil said it has started up operations at one of the world’s largest ethylene steam crackers, the centrepiece of the company’s multi-billion dollar expansion project at its Singapore petrochemical complex.

The US major has added a new 220-megawatt cogeneration power plant, and a petrochemicals complex with an annual capacity to produce a total 2.6 million tonnes of ethylene, polyethylene, polypropylene, metallocene elastomers, an oxo-alcohol unit and aromatics. Ethylene production is expected to start in the next few months, well behind the original target of early 2011.

Shaw Group, the US-based contractor for the ethylene cracker, suffered a huge loss from the project as a result of rising sub-contractor cost increases and schedule delays since construction began in November 2007.

ExxonMobil has an existing 140-MW cogeneration facility to supply electricity to its world-scale operations on Jurong Island. Cogeneration allows for the efficient generation of electricity to run pumps, compressors and other equipment, while at the same time producing additional steam for use in the production processes. Cogeneration is significantly more efficient than traditional methods of producing steam and power separately, resulting in lower operating costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Estimated to cost more than US$5 billion, the expansion project has made the Singapore facility ExxonMobil’s largest refining and petrochemical complex. It also marks the first production by ExxonMobil of its proprietary specialty elastomers and metallocene-based polyethylene in the Asia Pacific region.

Steve Pryor, President of ExxonMobil Chemical Company, said:

“We have doubled the size of our finished product capacity at Singapore, making this the largest chemical expansion project in ExxonMobil history. This is among the most technically advanced and competitive manufacturing sites in the Asia Pacific region.”

The expansion will increase the company’s chemical plant workforce by 50%, bringing total employment at ExxonMobil’s Singapore integrated refining and chemical complex to 1,800. During peak construction, the project employed on site 22,000 workers who achieved more than 80 million work hours with no lost-time injuries in construction activities.

ExxonMobil has operated in Singapore for more than 100 years and is one of Singapore’s largest foreign manufacturing investors.