BRUNEI-MUARA – Some 15,000 workers will need to be added to the oil and gas industry workforce, said the deputy minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry on Tuesday, with $20 billion invested to grow the upstream and downstream sectors over the next few years.
“Despite the fact that the oil and gas industry in Brunei Darussalam is already 90 years old, I still believe this industry will remain strong and relevant for a foreseeable future and continue to grow,” YB Dato Seri Paduka Hj Matsatejo Sokiaw said during the opening of a workshop organised by the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

The industry already employs 20,000 people, and accounts for 97 percent of Brunei’s exports and 57 percent of GDP.

The deputy minister said the US$15 billion Hengyi refinery and petrochemical plant — the largest FDI project in the sultanate — is currently in its trial phase and is expected to begin operations early next year.

The Brunei-China joint venture will have the capacity to refine 175,000 barrels of crude oil a day for export to China and other regional markets, eventually increasing to 500,000 barrels/day when construction of phase two is complete in 2022.

The second phase will focus on manufacturing more downstream products such as aromatics and industrial chemicals that are used to make clothing and plastics — and could generate revenue of about US$10 billion per annum, according to Hengyi.

Other downstream projects, such as construction of a $1.8 billion fertiliser plant in Sungai Liang is slated to become one of Southeast Asia’s biggest fertiliser plants once operational in 2021.

“With such huge investment in the upstream and downstream, there are ample opportunities for our local companies to develop their capabilities not only to service the industry in Brunei Darussalam but also the region,” Dato Hj Matsatejo added.

During this year’s legislative council meeting, the Ministry of Energy, Manpower and Industry said that the expansion of the energy industry would spur the creation of 45,000 new jobs by 2024, potentially bringing down Brunei’s unemployment rate from 9.3 percent to three percent.

The deputy minister encouraged more young Bruneians — whether on a professional or technician level — to enter the industry, urging oil and gas companies to “give highest priority to the development of Bruneians”.

“The advancement in the digital technology will also change the way we run this industry. We certainly need a new approach and more comprehensive human capital development to support further growth in the oil and gas industry”.

He also encouraged local and international training organisations to establish facilities in the sultanate, seeing it as a potential growth area to provide continuous training to the existing and future oil and gas workers.