Located southwest of the main island of Singapore, Jurong Island is home to many facilities from the world’s leading oil, petrochemical, and specialty chemical companies. The purpose-built industrial site was artificially developed from seven small islands back in 1995, yet the area is still not yet fully reclaimed, with plans to add further growth in the coming years.
Despite its substantial industrial operations, Jurong Island has long tried to minimise its impact on the local environment. For example today, it functions as an integrated hub, where the output from one plant is used as the input for another, allowing companies to feed off each other and optimise the use of resources. Even so, Jurong Island still contributes about three-quarters of industries’ emissions in Singapore, making it a strong focus for reduction.
With this in mind, the Singapore government agency JTC Corporation commissioned a study in early 2019 – the Jurong Island Circular Economy Study – to map water, energy and waste flows on the island. The study aims to identify synergies to both reduce resource use and move towards a circular economy approach.
At the same time, authorities must contend with the other significant challenge facing Jurong Island – and Singapore as a whole – rising sea levels. While Jurong Island is currently protected by coastal revetment and quay walls, Singapore’s sea levels are predicted to rise by several metres in the centuries ahead, so further protection will undoubtedly be required.
Jurong Island is not only one of the world’s largest oil refining and petrochemical complexes, it is also one of the most vulnerable parts of the country, with some areas sitting at an extremely low level. In future, additional protection will be needed to supplement the existing revetments.
Typically, engineers would look at making these bigger, either inland, seaward or both. However, at Jurong Island, most of the existing buildings, pipelines and infrastructure are close to the sea, so there is limited space to make revetments bigger inland. At the same time, making them bigger seaward will affect the coastal hydrodynamics around part of the island as well as the operability of marine jetties that industrial companies use as an essential part of their logistics.
Removing or relocating assets to make space for quay walls could be one solution – however, the island is an intricate, established network of plants, pipelines, warehouses and other infrastructure, so moving assets around becomes a complex and expensive process.
Renewing coastal protection on Jurong Island presents a great opportunity to simultaneously reinvent the hub, pushing it towards carbon neutrality and setting a positive example for other countries. There are a wide range of options that might be considered in re-thinking Jurong Island. Here are four options that might work for the location:
Can you imagine Jurong island becoming a world-class net zero, and sustainable industrial island that has future proofed itself against the long-term impacts of climate change in 2025? Navigating and implementing innovative solutions to transition into a low-carbon local economy and developing physical protection measures against sea level rise and rainfall inundation – though complex – will make this possible in Singapore.
For Jurong Island, managing physical risks should be the priority. This will address new coastal protection measures and at the same time, address the island’s coastal logistics and water management strategy. Furthermore, it will give the opportunity to developing resilient infrastructure and in return, support sustainable industrial hubs and communities.
Leading design engineering firms like Aurecon, are well positioned to use data and digital technologies to develop and test engineering solutions to speed up decision making processes, before construction proceeds.
Transitioning towards a net zero emission strategy and developing a transition plan for Jurong island will require time and significant investments in future energy and new fuel technologies. A good start is to explore and implement solutions to aid the decarbonisation of the island’s transport network and use data and intelligent transport infrastructure to make a significant positive impact.
Stéphanie Groen is Director of Coastal & Climate Change in Asia for Aurecon, an international engineering, design and advisory company. Groen has over 19 years’ professional experience in water, marine and environmental consultancy and has helped clients in Asia, particularly in Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines implement environmental best practices and understand the various impacts of climate change.
She has overseen the completion of more than 15 large marine infrastructure developments often related to land reclamation works, whilst working closely with institutions such as the Singapore Government and the World Bank, as well as engineering firms, universities and insurance companies.