THE demand for energy - particularly in emerging economies like India and China - is growing at an unprecedented pace.
According to United Nations estimates, the world will need 45 per cent more energy in 2030 than it does today.
Oil and gas exploration has thus moved to deeper waters and harsher environments.
It means more sophisticated technologies are needed, says Mr Lim Kok Kiang, assistant managing director at Economic Development Board.
That has created the opportunity for Singapore to become a hub for advanced manufacturing and engineering of oil and gas equipment and for research and development for the sector.
Between 2007 and 2012, the sector grew by 10 per cent each year, achieving a total output of more than $4.4 billion in 2012.
Key global players use Singapore as their regional base.
Singapore is the global headquarters for Halliburton’s Completion Tools business unit, and Cameron International chose Singapore as its Asia-Pacific and Middle East headquarters.
Further downstream, the refining and petrochemical sector, too, has grown in tandem with the expansion of Jurong Island, which now covers 3,200ha.
Over 100 companies are on the island, which has a total refining capacity of 1.3 million barrels a day, giving it the fourth-largest refining capacity in Asia.
The island has attracted more than $35 billion in investments and now makes up a third of Singapore's manufacturing output.
The companies are drawn by a pro-business environment and skilled talent that is up to speed with complex and emerging technologies, says Mr Lim.
"Talent is a key enabler for this complex and dynamic industry. As it constantly upgrades capabilities to operate state-of-the-art technologies, companies can tap a highly skilled workforce capable of managing high-end complex manufacturing and research projects," he adds.
To ensure that the talent pipeline remains robust, new programmes and initiatives are constantly being put in place.
For instance, in 2004, the Government invested in the Chemical Process Technology Centre on Jurong Island to train engineering graduates.
By next year, a Petroleum Engineering Professorship programme will be in place to equip mechanical engineers with knowledge of petroleum engineering.
To meet the high demand for subsea engineers and to bolster research and development capabilities, the National University of Singapore established a subsea engineering professorship programme and a maritime technology professorship programme.
It means Singaporeans can continue to be an important part of a promising sector, says Mr Lim, noting that the energy and chemicals sector pays the best across all manufacturing sectors.
He adds that opportunities abound for those in it, including the chance to be a part of cutting-edge innovation.
Citing the example of DSM Dyneema, where Singaporeans are experimenting with advanced materials to develop bulletproof vests, he says: "In time to come, these products that are created by Singaporeans in Singapore will be marketed to customers in Asia and the world."
Talent is a key enabler for this complex and dynamic industry. As it constantly upgrades capabilities to operate state-of-the-art technologies, companies can tap a highly skilled workforce capable of managing high-end complex manufacturing and research projects.
- Mr Lim Kok Kiang, assistant managing director, Economic Development Board