Located on Pulau Muara Besar (PMB), a small island situated near the coastline of Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of Brunei Darussalam, lies Hengyi Industries Sdn Bhd, a joint Petrochemical venture between China and Brunei which started in early 2017.

During a recent interview, representatives said that commercial operation will begin by the end of October this year.

An investment of over 3.5 billion US dollars marks the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) ever in Brunei under the framework of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). The project is expected to increase Brunei’s GDP by an estimated 1.33 billion U.S. dollars in its first year of operation and create more than 1,600 jobs.

According to Chen Liancai, CEO of Hengyi Industries Sdn Bhd, Hengyi’s PMB project is being developed in two phases. The first phase takes up 276 hectares of land and a total investment of 3.45 billion U.S. dollars, and Hengyi commits a possible further 12 billion U.S. dollars for development in the second phase.

The first phase of the project has an annual processing capacity of eight million tons of crude oil and can condensate and produce approximately 1.5 million tons of paraxylene, 500,000 tons of benzene as well as refined products such as gasoline, jet fuel and diesel. The crude oil needed for the project will be provided partially by Brunei, and the rest will be imported from surrounding oil-producing countries.

Hengyi Industries Sdn Bhd is a joint venture between China’s Zhejiang Hengyi Group and Damai Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary under the Bruneian government’s Strategic Development Capital Fund, owning 70 percent and 30 percent of the shares respectively.

The project embodies the successful implementation of “Chinese standards” overseas.

“This is a flagship project under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative cooperated between the two countries,” said Chen, “the project complies with Chinese standards, Chinese design, Chinese construction, and Chinese manufacturing, almost all from China.”

“What makes us proud is the fact that after all these years of construction, at its peak, there were over 14,000 employees on the island, and we have finally finished our first phase of the project with zero casualties in the whole process,” said Chen, adding that “the Bruneian government has recognised China’s efficiency.”

The oil and gas industry is the mainstay of Brunei’s national economic structure, but with the lack of professional talents in this area, Brunei is pushing forward the localisation of the project and the creation of more employment opportunities.

To this end, Hengyi has expedited the training of local talents, such as funding qualified students from Brunei University to study chemical engineering at Zhejiang University in China and employ them after graduation.

At present, there are five batches, a total of 80 students that have entered the “Hengyi Petrochemical Talent Class”. “The first few batches of students have already started their work at Hengyi Industries here in Brunei,” said Chen.

In addition, the completion and commissioning of this project will help the Brunei economy rid its excessive dependence on oil and gas exploration and promote the diversified development of the country’s economic structure, which is in line with the Brunei Vision 2035 proposed by the Bruneian government.