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Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the 11th Asian Downstream Summit and Exhibition

Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the 11th Asian Downstream Summit and Exhibition


Mr Richard Ireland, Managing Director, Clarion Events

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


1.     Welcome to the 11th annual Asian Downstream Summit.

2.     This year, we are focused on the digital transformation of the downstream Energy and Chemicals industry.  It is a topic pertinent to this year’s SIEW theme, “Transforming Energy:  Invest, Innovate, Integrate”. It also reflects the developments happening across the global energy landscape.  

Changing energy landscape

3.     The world consumes close to 98 million barrels of oil per day, and this figure will only grow.[1] One of the key drivers is Asia’s rapid urbanisation and economic growth, and our increasing demand for everyday items made from petrochemicals — plastics, dyes, cosmetics and even clothing.

4.     The downstream Energy & Chemicals sector plays an important role in meeting this demand and in supporting our economies and people.  In Singapore, the sector accounts for a quarter of our manufacturing output and employs over twenty-eight thousand people. 

5.     However, we cannot expect to simply continue with business as usual. The global energy system is changing, and technologies such as cloud computing, data analytics, and artificial intelligence have unlocked new opportunities for the sector. The World Economic Forum estimates that these digitalisation trends can create up to 275 billion US dollars of additional value for the downstream sector over the next decade.[2]

Collaborations to further digitalisation

6.     As the Chair of ASEAN this year, Singapore has spearheaded several efforts on digitalisation with our ASEAN partners, and international counterparts such as the International Energy Agency, or IEA. These efforts include hosting the first ASEAN-IEA Digitalisation and Energy Workshop in June, where we welcomed 80 participants from 16 countries. 

7.     Given the keen interest, we hope to continue our collaboration with the IEA to gain a better understanding of the impact and opportunities that digitalisation can bring to the region. In fact, later this morning, we will be holding the second edition of the Singapore-IEA forum which will focus on the digital energy systems of the future.    

Creating opportunities in the Energy & Chemicals industry

8.     Closer to home, Singapore companies are already upgrading their technological capabilities. One example is the partnership between Shell and a local start-up, Avetics Global, to deploy drones for plant maintenance and inspection.  The drones offer a safer way for Shell to inspect structures up to 100 metres tall at its refinery site. To give a human scale to this height, it is the equivalent of 26 stacked double-decker buses.

9.     However, more can be done and the Government is committed to support local companies in the adoption of digital technologies. Under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan, or RIE 2020, we are spending 3.2 billion Singapore dollars from 2016 to 2020 to develop research and technological capabilities in the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering domain. 

10.  Alongside the RIE 2020 plan, the Government launched the Energy & Chemicals Industry Transformation Map last year. This Map brings together stakeholders from the entire ecosystem to upgrade the strategies moving forward, to help the Energy & Chemicals sector transform itself to become more productive and innovative, through the use of advanced automation and digital technologies.

Upskilling the workforce to seize the future

11.  Beyond research and technology, companies will need a workforce with the right skillsets to fully capture the opportunities opened up by digitalisation.

12.  This August, I launched the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Model Factory at the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre. The Centre will provide customised Digital Cultural Training, smart manufacturing and data analysis courses to familiarise companies and workers with digitalisation strategies for the manufacturing sector. These training modules were developed together with McKinsey, and the first workshop was delivered in June. Feedback has been positive, and we look forward to companies and workers taking up more courses in the near future.

The Asian Downstream Summit Digital Transformation Awards

13.  In the same spirit of empowering our workforce, I would like to congratulate the winners of the inaugural Asian Downstream Summit Digital Transformation Awards.

14.  These Awards recognise the top enterprising refiners and innovative solutions providers in the downstream energy and chemicals sector for their outstanding commitment towards a sustainable and digital-ready energy sector. Their solutions have improved work processes and transformed the way the industry operates, with greater efficiency and safety. I am honoured to be presenting the awards to them shortly.


15.  In summary, digital transformation is underway within the Energy & Chemicals sector, and the developments are accelerating.

16.  The Singapore Government remains deeply committed to supporting energy and chemicals companies in their digital transformation.  We are continuously developing initiatives, policies and regulations to foster a forward-looking, pro-innovation business environment—one that will allow our energy and chemicals companies and their employees to thrive.

17.  We look forward to more ideas, innovations and collaborations between all the different stakeholders on this exciting journey of transformation. I wish you all a fruitful day of discussions ahead. Thank you.

[1] The International Energy Agency expects this to increase every year by 1.2 million barrels per day, Medium-Term Oil Market Report 2018, IEA.

[2] The decade refers to 2016-2025. Report is from “Digital Transformation Initiative: Oil and Gas Industry”. 2017. World Economic Forum/Accenture.
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