Business

Oil trading giant Vitol builds largest vessel in Singapore

Shipyards here remain prized for their expertise in ship-building despite the beaten-down market.

That was why oil trading giant Vitol chose to build its largest floating production, storage and offloading vessel here, said the company's Asia president Kho Hui Meng.

"Singapore has the expertise and the capabilities in shipbuilding and conversion works. And it has a good track record in delivering vessels," Mr Kho told The Straits Times in an interview last week.

"So it is not just a question about price, even though there are cheaper yards out there."

The vessel, named John Agyekum Kufuor at a ceremony last Friday, is part of a massive US$7.9 billion (S$11 billion) project to power Ghana's entire thermal power sector up to 2036 and beyond.

It has a storage capacity of 1.7 million barrels of oil - the equivalent of 108 Olympic-sized swimming pools - with an oil processing capacity of 58,000 barrels a day.

Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M) said its subsidiary Keppel Shipyard is set to deliver the vessel to Yinson Production (West Africa) by the end of this month.

The vessel will be chartered by ENI Ghana Exploration & Production to process oil and gas from the Offshore Cape Three Points block located in offshore Ghana.

It is Keppel O&M's 27th conversion project for Africa, and its 125th overall. Some 3,000 people worked on the vessel at the peak of the construction process, noted Mr Kho.

"This project is good for the Singapore yards because the entire sector has been so challenged," he said. "And it is also important to note that their expertise and skill in building the vessel plays an integral role in a project that will secure Ghana's energy future."

Vitol, which was granted an exploration licence for the new gas block in March last year, holds a 36 per cent stake in the project. The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation owns 20 per cent of the remaining stake, while ENI holds 44 per cent.

The Africa region continues to be a strong growth market, where Vitol has been expanding aggressively in recent years.

For example, Vitol bought over the remaining 20 per cent shareholding in Vivo Energy held by Shell for US$250m last December via a joint venture.

Vivo Energy is the company behind the Shell brand in Africa, and is now wholly owned by the joint venture.

"A lot of countries in Africa are starved of energy even though they are big producers of oil and gas," said Mr Kho.

"A lot of times, they don't have the resources to build the infrastructure. It's underinvested, so the opportunity for growth is greater."

The US$7.9 billion power project is set to be the first in Africa where gas will be piped directly into Ghana's power stations, rather than being liquefied and transported.

"For us, it's a model. If it works, and there are other opportunities in other parts of the world, it can be duplicated," said Mr Kho.

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