Brunei ministry and agencies join efforts to expand energy sector
Borneo Bulletin (13 January, 2020) - Brunei Darussalam continues to create new economic opportunities to diversify the country’s economy. Alongside other sectors, the downstream oil and gas sector plays an important role in reshaping the country’s economic landscape and boosting resilience during a time of global oil market uncertainties. The downstream sector recorded a significant increase of 433.5 per cent between Q3 2019 to Q3 2020.
Brunei has made substantial investments over the last decade in the expansion of its downstream industries to diversify its product portfolio in the oil and gas value-chain. This trend is set to continue in the future, paving the way for growing demand for new skills and technology.
Following the decree of His Majesty Sultan of Brunei Darussalam during the official opening of the 14th Session of the Legislative Council in 2018 on the importance of producing highly competent locals to take on higher positions within the oil and gas sector, the Ministry of Energy is continuously working with relevant stakeholders to formulate training strategies to enable aspiring locals to fill existing and future skills requirements, ranging from vocational, technical and non-technical streams.
Existing downstream oil and gas activities include the Brunei Methanol Company Sdn Bhd (BMC) methanol plant in operation since 2010 and the Pulau Muara Besar (PMB) Refinery and Petrochemical Plant operated by Hengyi Industries Sdn Bhd since the end of 2019. These projects have contributed to the employment of over 600 locals directly involved in their operations, and even more through supporting activities, such as construction, maintenance, logistics and other services.
BMC has been able to achieve over 90 per cent Bruneianisation over the span of 10 years of operation, through various local and international training programmes, including industrial exposure to Bruneian students in their final year of undergraduate studies in Chemical Engineering, Mechanical (rotating) Engineering and Process Safety disciplines.
Meanwhile, Hengyi Industries continues to seek local talent to support its mega operations, which churn out eight million tonnes of petroleum and petrochemical products per year for sale in the domestic and international market.
Currently, localisation stands at 40 per cent with 667 locals employed with several more positions to be filled. Long-term aspirations target a sustained increase in local workforce to reach 90 per cent, aligned with the Bruneianisation Directive. Many opportunities are available in the PMB Refinery and Petrochemical Plant within technical and non-technical disciplines, including Refinery Operators, Logistic and Services, Electrical and Instrumentation, Supply Chain Management, Utilities and Administration.
Hengyi Industries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) in 2013 for a joint-training Chemical and Process Engineering programme with Zhejiang University for training opportunities and employment upon graduation. It also collaborated with Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) and Lanzhou Polytechnic for a Diploma programme for Refinery Operators since 2018.
Further downstream activities include the imminent Brunei Fertilizer Industries Sdn Bhd (BFI) plant in Sungai Liang Industrial Park (SPARK), scheduled for its first urea production in mid-2021. Currently under construction, the BFI workforce stood as of November 2020 at over 322 total with around 71 per cent (228) comprising of locals.
Efforts are undertaken to maintain at least 67 per cent over the next year during the start-up operation phase and even higher thereafter. BFI has sponsored 161 trainees to undergo a six-month training scheme under its Operation and Maintenance Training Programme at Institut Teknologi Petroleum PETRONAS (INSTEP) in Terengganu, ASEAN Bintulu Fertilizer in Bintulu, Petronas Chemical Fertilizers in Kedah and Gas Processing Plant Utilities in Kertih. Upon successful completion of the training programme, the trainees have been offered full-time employment with BFI before the end of 2020.
Joint efforts are actively being undertaken by the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Education, educational institutions and other agencies to undertake future skills forecasting and develop the necessary curriculum and training programmes to fill these opportunities. This includes creating more platforms to upskill and reskill locals, while also generating interest for these future roles.
The Ministry of Energy continues to work with other ministries, agencies and the private sector to encourage more local business participation and open up more employment opportunities from energy sector developments.