Panoramic view of the construction site at the Singapore Resid Upgrade Project.
Construction continues at the Resid Upgrade Project site in Singapore.

ExxonMobil oversees continued progress on Singapore base stocks lubricant upgrade project

Over the next decade, demand for high-performance lubricants for the automotive and industrial sectors will only continue to grow worldwide, and so too will the market for the base stocks that formulators need to produce those lubricants.

So, in 2019, we announced a multi-billion-dollar investment in a large-scale expansion project at our integrated manufacturing complex in Jurong, Singapore, that would increase our production capacity of high-performance base stocks by an additional 20,000 barrels per day.

"Customers see that we're building something new," explained Pascal de Bast Thiers, ExxonMobil Basestocks Business Project Manager. "It's a human adventure, not just an industrial one."

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have pushed back the project's original timeline, we have continued progressing on the upgrade project. Now, we're excited to share some of the details of our Singapore Resid Upgrade Project with our customers for the first time.

The construction crew readies a large high-pressure reactor in Singapore.
To lift these massive reactors in place, the team used a large mobile gantry crane.

Changing the Singapore skyline

While the project is not slated to go online until 2025, our Singapore team has a significant amount of work to do before then and has already quite literally been changing the Singapore skyline. To date, all the project’s reactors have been safely erected on the site, representing a key milestone for the project.

These high-pressure reactors are where key chemical conversion processes will take place in the production of our EHC™ base stocks, and they are quite massive in size. The tallest reactor stands at more than 52 meters in height, taller than an 18-story building, and weighs over 1,300 tons.

To lift these massive reactors in place at the site, our construction team used a large mobile gantry crane. This was the first time a mobile gantry crane of this size was ever used in Singapore.

“The reactor installation required extensive multi-party coordination between our civil, heavy-lifting and electromechanical teams," said Khalid Ashraf, our Venture Executive and Project Director. "I’m incredibly proud of the strength, resilience and teamwork from these groups and how they rallied together to deliver on the outcome.”

A panoramic view of a high-pressure reactor standing at 52 meters (170 feet) assembled at ExxonMobil's Singapore refinery.
Installation of one of the reactor towers that will power the facility.

Preparing for the next generation of base stocks

The expansion will not only boost the accessibility of Group II base stocks for the Asia market by increasing supplies of our EHC™ 50 base stock but also introduce our global heavy neutral EHC™ 120 base stock to the region.

"We're taking advantage of the integrated nature of our Singapore complex," explained de Bast Thiers. "From a plant configuration standpoint, the existing facility has the ideal infrastructure and product streams to support the production of our EHC base stocks."

The proprietary technologies being incorporated at the upgraded Singapore facility are also in preparation for the launch of our new extra heavy neutral base stock EHC 340 MAX™, which will be distributed through our international network of supply hubs to our customers around the world. Basing the production of EHC 340 MAX in Singapore will help address growing demand in the Asia-Pacific region and allow for increased supply chain consistency and flexibility worldwide.

"EHC 340 MAX is a Group II product that has a viscosity similar to that of a Group I bright stock but significantly outperforms it in several important dimensions," de Bast Thiers said. "No industrial or world-scale facility today can produce that type of extra heavy neutral base stock."

Although EHC 340 MAX won't be commercially available until 2025, several customers have already been able to test samples, and so far, we have heard positive feedback.

Construction crews working In the Singapore ExxonMobil refinery location.
Construction remains on track for 2025 completion.

The road to our 2025 start-up

Even though all reactors are now in place, our Singapore team still has plenty of additional work to complete before our start-up in 2025.

This year, we're continuing to complete the other heavy lifts necessary so that we can get our pre-assembled racks set and all our base stock storage tanks at full height. With the infrastructure in place, we can commence our early systems completion and the unit readiness and quality assurance process completion.

"More than anything, [the project] is a long-term commitment to our customers, whom I’d like to thank as ExxonMobil works to get the project up and running," de Bast Thiers said.

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