Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) confirmed yesterday that a controversial petrochemical investment project that was scrapped in Taiwan may be revived in Malaysia.
According to local media reports, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on Sunday that his country would work with a Taiwanese petrochemical company to launch a multibillion-dollar investment project for oil refining, naphtha cracking and petrochemical production.
Fielding questions at a legislative committee meeting, Shih said the company Najib referred to was Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (國光石化), in which Taiwan’s state-owned oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油), has a large stake.
CPC media liaison officer Jessica Tang (唐苑莉) said Kuokuang may build a refinery, naphtha cracker and other plants.
“We are evaluating the feasibility of the proposed investment” and the company may make a decision by the middle of next year, depending on government approval, she said.
Kuokuang may invest between US$10 billion and US$12 billion in the project, if the Taiwan government approves the investment, Tang said.
The project may share amenities and infrastructure with a US$20 billion refinery and petrochemicals complex planned by Malaysian state oil and gas company Petroliam Nasional BHD, according to Najib. It would be located in Pengerang, which is in the Southeast Asian nation’s southernmost state of Johor, which Malaysia wants to transform into an oil hub to compete with Singapore.
Kuokuang was incorporated in January 2006, with major investors also including Ho Tung Chemical Corp (和桐化學), Oriental Union Chemical Corp (東聯化學) and China Man-Made Fiber Corp (中國人纖), according to the ministry. It had planned to build a naphtha cracking and petrochemical complex on coastal wetlands in Changhua County.
The project was scrapped, however, after local residents and environmental impact assessment teams raised concerns that the complex would consume too much water and generate high levels of pollution in the ecologically sensitive area.
“Kuokuang has since been seeking a suitable overseas destination for its investment project, and Malaysia is a possible option,” Shih said.
Asked about the possible impact of such a move on Taiwan’s petrochemical industry, Shih said industry executives had agreed to focus on producing higher-quality petrochemicals at home and other petrochemical intermediaries abroad.
He said that Kuokuang’s decision to launch its new investment project abroad would definitely have an adverse impact on Taiwan’s petrochemical production value.
“However, since our people have made a choice against the Kuokuang project, the Ministry of Economic Affairs must uphold this policy line,” Shih said.
Separately, Formosa Plastics Group (台塑集團, FPG), which faces investment obstacles in Taiwan and is seeking a breakthrough in a large ethylene plant it operates in China, said it had invested a further US$2 billion in production expansion at its Texas plant after FPG chairman William Wong (王文淵) visited it earlier this month.
However, the industrial conglomerate said its new investment in the US was simply recapitalization of its US subsidiary and was not an indication that the company is pulling out of Taiwan.
On Monday, FPG confirmed that Wong met with Texas Governor Rick Perry during his visit and that the investment was mentioned in that meeting. New ethylene and propylene plants will be built in Texas, where energy costs are low thanks to abundant shale oil resources, it added.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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