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SIPITANG: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has described the Ammonia Urea Sabah (SAMUR) PETRONAS project here, worth RM4.5 billion, as signifying a new era for Sabah and its people.
"The Samur Project is not an ordinary project. It is world scale project that will be built here in Sipitang," Najib said during his speech at the ground breaking ceremony for the project here today.
Also present at the event was Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Petronas Datuk Shamsul Azhar Abbas and the Chairman of Petronas Chemicals Group Bhd Datuk Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin.
Najib said the export value of the 1.2 million tonnes of urea to be produced here annually would amount to US$4.8 billion yearly.
"We can envision that once the Samur Project is realised, it would bring about major changes to the Sipitang area. The transformation would be definite in the next few years to come," he said.
A 2,000-acre area in the Sipitang vicinity has been also identified to be developed into a zone for the oil and gas and supporting industries, he said.
Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said the selection of Sipitang was also in view of its strategic location close to Kota Kinabalu and Brunei and the potential of its deep sea coast.
He said Petronas had also given him the assurance that more than 80 per cent of the work force for the Samur Project will comprise Sabah locals.
A permanent training centre to train future local Sabah workers is also being built and it is expected to be completed in the second quarter of next year, he said.
Currently, 24 locals are already undergoing training in a temporary training site in Membakut and they are expected to finish their training in July 2013.
A second intake of 20 more trainees will be conducted this July.
According to Petronas, the Samur Project is expected to require some 3,000 to 4,500 workers particularly at the peak of the construction of the complex.
Najib also called on the people of Sabah not to miss out on the spillover opportunities that the project will offer.
"We have no plans to turn this world-scale factory an "island" away from the local people.
"There will be networking. We want to, and will ensure that the effects and benefits are shared with the local people."
Najib also announced that the selected contractor will begin site preparation end of this month.
Currently, Petronas is also working with the state government to identify qualified companies in Sabah that can participate in the development of the project.
The exposure and participation of local companies in the implementation of Petronas projects is expected to raise their level of capabilities and experience and consequently open up more opportunities for them in the related industries.
The Samur Project Complex is expected to be ready in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said that the downstream oil and gas industry will continue to be developed further as it can become a new money spinner for the country. Citing the example of the Sabah Ammonia Urea (SAMUR) Petronas project, he said urea production would bring double value-added benefits to the country's exports.
"If we compare with the export of crude natural gas, we lose out on value-added benefits," he told reporters after officiating the ground breaking ceremony for the SAMUR project here today.
Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said 95 per cent of the urea plant's output of 1.2 million tonnes, per year, would be exported, raking in foreign reserves of some US$4.8 billion, annually.
He said under the National Key Economic Area, the oil and gas sector is forecast to contribute an estimated RM241 billion towards the nation's Gross Domestic Product, annually, until 2020.
Najib also said the biggest oil and gas complex was also being planned to take off soon in Pengerang, Johor.
He said the downstream project was being undertaken as oil and gas reserves would deplete one day.
"Efforts are also underway by Petronas to increase the oil extraction rate to more than 50 per cent," he added.
The Samur complex will be made up of an ammonia plant, a urea plant and a granulation plant, as well as integrated utility units and jetty facilities.
The urea plant will produce 1.2 million metric tonnes per annum (mtpa) of granulated urea while the ammonia plant will produce 740,000 mtpa of liquid ammonia.
Currently, PCG operates a 750,000 mtpa urea plant in Bintulu, Sarawak, and a 683,000 mtpa urea plant in Gurun, Kedah. -- Bernama