AFTER waiting for more than a decade, Perak’s “game changing” natural-gas distribution system is coming closer to reality.
The construction of a 140km-long distribution system connecting Ayer Tawar to the Kinta Valley is set to invigorate the state by boosting the growth of its industries.
Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir said the RM180mil project will transform the industrial landscape of Kinta district and attract more foreign investment to the state.
“This is also in line with the state’s mission to provide the latest infrastructure in areas already developed 30 to 40 years ago in an effort to attract investors.
“For too long, we’ve been feeling that Perak is like a stepchild. We’ve seen rapid development in other states in terms of the facilities and the new industrial parks they have developed.
“Without something as crucial as a natural-gas pipeline, many potential investors we hoped to attract to the state eventually decided to look elsewhere as this crucial amenity was not available yet.
“Soon, this is going to change,” he said after officiating the ground-breaking ceremony for the natural gas pipeline project in Bandar Meru Raya last Thursday.
The project is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of next year.
Zambry said, in the long run the project will have a major impact on the development plans for southern Perak as well, which is currently seeing major growth in the coastal areas and Bagan Datuk.
He said the pipeline connecting three districts - Kinta, Perak Tengah and Manjung - will also bridge the gap in industrial growth between central and southern Perak.
“Once the pipeline has been fully installed, we will also work on connecting it to the southern region in hopes that it will further boost development,” he said.
Also present at the ceremony was International Trade and Industry Minister II Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, who said currently, there are 44 companies that will benefit from the project.
“We anticipate that this number could easily increase at least twofold once the pipeline is ready.
“It will certainly boost the investment of existing companies and the influx of new investments along the line due to the lower cost of business operations,” he said.
The construction of the natural-gas distribution system is a collaboration between the Federal and state government and Gas Malaysia Bhd.
The cost of the project is borne by the three parties, with the Federal Government, through the International Trade and Industry Ministry contributing RM50mil, the state government RM10mil, and Gas Malaysia Bhd RM120mil.
While the project is expected to take 36 months to complete, the supply of natural gas would commence as early as the first quarter of 2019
So far, 31km of the pipeline structure has been constructed starting from Ayer Tawar.
Lauding the project, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) Perak Chairman Datuk Gan Tack Kong said having gas pipeline is a dream come true after waiting for more than 13 to 14 years.
“Not only will it benefit multinationals, large local companies, but also SMEs (small and medium enterprises) will gain as well, especially those that use boilers.
“Gas is two to two-and-a-half times cheaper than medium fuel oil or diesel and liquefied petroleum gas, so it will surely benefit companies here including those who are looking to branch out and set up new ventures in Perak,” he said.
Compared to neighbouring states like Selangor and Penang, Gan said potential investors could also take advantage of cheap land.
He also hopes the pipeline will pave the way for the revival of the once vibrant pottery industry in Chemor.
“In its heyday, there were around 90 pottery companies operating there. Today, the number has gone down to 10 because they simply weren’t able to obtain gas and alternatives were costly.
“I hope the pottery industry will come back as they used to account for around 90% of the state’s export sales,” he said.
Among industry leaders present at the ceremony, BNH Manufacturer Sdn Bhd Director Calvin Kew said based on early calculations, using natural gas will allow the manufacturer of polyethylene products to save around 40% on their operating costs.
“Currently, we are using LPG. We’ve been waiting for a natural gas supply for 10 years.
“It is much safer because even if there’s a leak, it evaporates. With natural gas being safer and cheaper, it will surely give our operations a boost,” Kew said.
Sagami Manufacturers Sdn Bhd Administrative Manager Chooy Boon Hong said the manufacturer of plastic and rubber goods is currently using diesel for its energy needs.
“Natural gas is something new to us, but based on the data shown, it is safer and cheaper compared with diesel.
“We are definitely looking forward to switching to a more economical resource while keeping diesel as a reserve,” he said.