Congratulations on the timely completion of Singapore's first LNG terminal. Could you share your thoughts on this achievement and some of the challenges faced by SLNG in getting the terminal up and running?

As with any project of this size and complexity, one can expect a number of challenges; but the three biggest challenges were actually posed to us by our own Board. They were: to deliver the project safely, on time and within budget.

I am happy to say that SLNG did not just overcome these challenges, we surpassed them. What we have achieved is a mega project that was delivered with an impressive safety record (15 million man-hours worked on site without a Lost Time Injury is a record in itself); exactly within budget; and within a timetable that was set some four years ago when 7 many variables and how they could impact on the project were still unknown.

We were able to achieve this because we have a fantastic team of hardworking, smart and committed staff who maintained a positive attitude even in the face of very difficult obstacles. The team is largely home grown but we also have a wide range of foreign talents from England, Wales, India, Colombia, Australia, Malaysia and New Zealand, just to name a few places. This multicultural base has proved to be our strength, as the team looked past cultural differences and tapped into the diverse pool of skills and experiences to achieve our common goal.

We also had help along the way from our partners, from the industry, and from the regulator, EMA. The secret is in choosing our partners well, looking primarily at the value that they bring to the table rather than at costs alone; and ensuring that our working relationships were enduring. We found great partners in Samsung C&T and Foster Wheeler, who often went the extra mile, beyond their obligations, to support what we want to achieve.

These are some of the ingredients that have made this critical development for Singapore very successful. All involved can take immense pride in what has been achieved – it is truly world class.

With the terminal now operational, what are SLNG's priorities and plans for the terminal's expansion?

SLNG's top priority in the near term is to turn the focus of the company from project to business oriented goals, based on safe and reliable production, and building the business in accord with our obligations to customers and to the future framework that the Country adopts for LNG.

We will work towards operating the Terminal with increasing efficiency so as to provide a gateway for economic LNG supply for Singapore, and add value to the Terminal through identifying new business opportunities, which may include vessel cool down services, storage & reload (transhipment) services, break bulk services, among others. Working together with the Government, we had in fact planned ahead for the Terminal's expansion even before we became commercially operational.

We were already working on the Phase 2 expansion of the Terminal when we were still building Phase 1. Therefore, while we started commercial operations with 2 LNG storage tanks and an initial regasification capacity of 3.5 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), this will increase to 6 Mtpa when an additional storage tank and facilities are completed by the end of this year.

We will work towards operating the Terminal with increasing efficiency so as to provide a gateway for economic LNG supply for Singapore, and add value to the Terminal through identifying new business opportunities, which may include vessel cool down services, storage & reload (transhipment) services, break bulk services, among others."

To further enhance Singapore's energy security and allow the country to respond to new opportunities in global LNG markets, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry, Mr S Iswaran, announced plans to further expand the Terminal's sendout and storage capacities back in October 2012. This is the third phase of development and a subset of the Singapore LNG Terminal's 20 Mtpa masterplan. This phase includes the installation of additional facilities to increase the Terminal's throughput capacity to 9 Mtpa, and the construction of a fourth storage tank. The engineering development work has been largely completed; and it is likely that SLNG will continue in development mode for a number of years yet whilst our operational team keeps the LNG flowing. If you visualise the popular Chinese acrobatic act of balancing spinning plates on sticks, you will get an idea of what it is like to work in SLNG. Yet every day, our staff take this in their stride and I have immense pride in what they have achieved for Singapore.

So, it's clear that there is still much work to be done and the road ahead for SLNG will continue to be challenging; but we draw our motivation from the fact that SLNG is the "pioneer" of a new industry in Singapore that will become increasingly important in time to come.

What do you think are the opportunities in the LNG sphere that lie ahead for Singapore in the next decade?

Several projections show that oil, natural gas and coal will remain the major sources of primary energy in the world for at least the next couple of decades, with natural gas emerging as the first fuel of choice, especially in developed countries that are more environmentally conscious and have land constraints. Given that it is clearly not possible to pipe natural gas from its sources to everywhere in the world, LNG is on its way to becoming the fuel of the future.

Singapore and the Singapore LNG Terminal are in the right place and at the right time to tap into this future in a big way. The Terminal is becoming a strategic asset not just for Singapore, but also for the global LNG industry. It is a critical installation for Singapore because it opens up, quite literally, an entire world of fuel resources to power Singapore's residential and commercial energy needs for generations to come. It is also important to the rest of the world, because it has the potential to become a vital node to facilitate global LNG flow from source countries to demand centres; much in the same way that the Port of Singapore facilitates global trade. Even though it is still early days, Singapore and its new LNG Terminal already have the attention of the global LNG industry as being a force for change in this region.

Hence, perhaps the biggest opportunity ahead of us, and arguably the most strategically important one, is the opportunity for Singapore to not just tap into the global gas market, but to become a major player in it.

There are many external and internal factors that favour this development. Externally, for example, we are seeing an increase in worldwide LNG supply and demand, with supply coming mainly from the West and demand mainly from Asia. Today, some 63% of global LNG demand comes from Asia, and this is expected to grow. Internally, Singapore is geographically very well located at the centre of major trade routes, and is already a trusted financial centre and major oil trading hub.

I would say that the fruits are ripe for the picking. All that remains is to harvest these fruits in a way that would best suit Singapore's strategic and economic interests.

How do you think the LNG terminal can support future LNG business opportunities?

Market participants are currently waiting for the Singapore Government to determine the framework for the future import/ export of LNG in the Singapore market, after BG Singapore Gas Marketing (BG) has fully contracted its current exclusive quantities. Whatever the decision, SLNG will play a pivotal role in facilitating the flow of LNG into and out of Singapore; and by that extension, in the future growth of the Singapore LNG industry.

Thus, we have made the Singapore LNG Terminal "futureproof". What we have designed is a highly flexible and scalable terminal - we can berth a wide range of LNG vessels from small 10,000m3 capacity ships to the largest Q-Max vessels that are about 265,000m3; we can perform unloading and reloading activities efficiently; and we can further expand our capacity and facilities to cater to different market needs as and when they materialize.

What this means is that the LNG Terminal can support and facilitate a wide range of possible future LNG business opportunities that may include LNG break bulk and transshipment, LNG bunkering, LNG trucking or nitrogen blending for regasified LNG, just to name a few.

Our primary role and objective is to grow the LNG Terminal, starting with fulfilling our commitment to our first customer, BG Singapore Gas Marketing (BG), by helping to ensure a smooth and efficient throughput of LNG from ship to gas network. Moving forward, we will add value to the Terminal by identifying new business opportunities and exploring new ways to make full use of what we have built at the Terminal. One such possibility is in facilitating spot LNG transactions with markets outside of Singapore.

I would like to finish off by saying that great achievements are reached by boldly taking the first step and then having the vision to build upon it to achieve a grand design, for the betterment of the Nation and its people. We have taken the first step and I am sure that there are many, many more steps to come in the development journey of Singapore's LNG industry; and the path we are on can lead us beyond Singapore and into the regional LNG markets in the future…