Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday said Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (國光石化) might seek an alternative overseas location — possibly in Malaysia or Indonesia — for a proposed naphtha cracking plant, after the planned site in Changhua County was ruled out.
Moving overseas would be an option for Kuokuang, Wu said, adding that E United Group (義聯集團) had relocated a steel plant to Vietnam after concerns emerged about the environmental impacts the project might have on wetlands and lagoons in Greater -Tainan’s Cigu District (七股).
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Friday in effect halted the Kuokuang project by asking the state-owned CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油), the largest shareholder, to withdraw from the project that would have required a NT$632.5 billion (US$21.9 billion) investment to build the capacity to refine 300,000 barrels of crude oil daily and produce 1.2 million tonnes of ethylene annually.
The government had previously said that without the Kuokuang project, the nation would face ethylene shortages by 2015, when the fifth naphtha cracker in Greater Kaohsiung’s Nanzih District (楠梓) is closed.
However, in a clear break from that stand, Wu said: “There will be no immediate impact” on the nation’s petrochemical industry caused by the decision to stop the Kuokuang project.
The first stage of the Kuokuang complex had been aimed at replacing the 500,000 tonnes of -ethylene lost when the Nanzih plant is shut down as the government had promised after residents protested long and hard against it.
“It would still be several years before the Kuokuang complex would come into operation even if Kuokuang was allowed to start construction as scheduled,” Wu said, adding that the government had measures in place to ensure sufficient supply of materials for mid and downstream industries.
Ma said on Friday he would not support building the proposed project in a Changhua County wetlands area, but left open the possibility that other sites in Taiwan could be considered. Reports have suggested the complex would now be relocated southwards to -Kaohsiung’s Linyuan (林園) or Dalinpu (大林蒲) areas.
Both Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) and the -Kaohsiung City Council immediately opposed the idea of having the petrochemical complex in their area.
The city “does not welcome the Kuokuang petrochemical complex” and would not accept any attempt by the central government to move a highly polluting industry there, Chen said.
Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Hsu Kun-yuan (許崑源) said Greater Kaohsiung residents inhale “toxic gases” daily, with the pollution coming from heavy industry and petrochemical plants.
With the Kuokuang project now in limbo, some have asked if it could return to the location originally suggested in Yunlin County, just south of Changhua County.
However, the Yunlin County Government was also quick to nix the idea.
“By no means can it be accepted,” a Yunlin County government official said.
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