KERTIH, TERENGGANU October 6: The East Coast Economic Region (ECER) added yet another key milestone in its development with the construction of the world’s first integrated bio-methionine and thiochemicals plant worth RM2 billion in the Kertih BioPolymer Park, a major project that is expected to position Terengganu as a centre of new technologies and a regional leader in biorefinery.

Located on a 70 hectare land in ECER’s Kertih Biopolymer Park, the project involves the development of Korea’s CJ CheilJedang (CJ)’s bio-methionine plant and France’s Arkema’s thiochemicals platform that will come on stream at the end of 2013. The integrated facility will be the first in the world to use fermentation process in producing L-methionine, an amino acid commonly used in the manufacturing of animal feed. The East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) and Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp) are joint-promoters of the project.

Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd NajibTun Abdul Razak said the setting up of the plant by two globally renowned companies will position Malaysia as an attractive industrial biotechnology investment destination.

“It is indeed a proud moment for Malaysia as we have with us two globally renowned players in the industrial biotechnology and chemical industries establishing their presence in our country, bringing with them expertise in their respective areas,” he said at the ground breaking ceremony of the facility here today.

CJ is a world leader in the area of industrial biotechnology with innovations in fermentation and purification. It is a leading producer of fermentation-based products with business operations in six continents, while Arkema is a global chemical company and France’s leading specialty chemicals producer with operations in more than 40 countries.

The integrated facility will enable CJ to respond to strong demand for methionine; a sulphur amino acid widely used for animal feed in Asia, and allows Arkema to better serve its Asian customers from a new industrial platform.

Marking several firsts in the biotechnology industry, the investment by CJ and Arkema will be a breakthrough for the global feed additives industry as the production of bio-methionine will pool together both biotechnology advancement and applied chemistry for the first time.

“This project also marks the first major investment by an international industrial biotechnology company in the country, which will position Malaysia alongside other global feed producers and exporters. It also proves that Malaysia has emerged to become an important player in the global innovation forum,” he noted.

“This development will also enable the local biotechnology industry to develop expertise in niche areas such as chemical engineering and industrial biotechnology. At the same time, it will provide collaboration opportunities between global industry players and local universities in Terengganu through ECER Malaysia’s Centres of Excellence initiative,” Dato’ Sri Najib said.

He added that biotechnology fits in perfectly with the existing petrochemical ecosystem and is complementary to Malaysia’s chemicals industry, noting that the nation has emerged as one of the largest chemicals producers in the ASEAN region.

Also present at today’s ground breaking ceremony were Terengganu Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri Ahmad Said; Chief Executive Officer of CJ CheilJedang, Mr. Kim Chul Ha; Executive Vice President of Arkema, Mr Marc Schuller; Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Malaysia, Mr. Lee Yong Joon; Ambassador of France to Malaysia, Madame Martine Dorance; Chief Executive Officer of ECERDC, Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John; and, Chief Executive Officer of BiotechCorp, Dato’ Dr Mohd Nazlee Kamal.

“This significant project will strengthen and consolidate our position as the world leader in sulphur chemicals and allow our company to meet the growing needs of our customers and partners from petrochemicals, animal nutrition, as well as oil and gas markets in Asia,” declared Marc Schuller, Executive Vice President of Arkema.

“This is a very significant day for CJ’s BIO business in its 45-year history. In many ways, it is the start of a new beginning for CJ,” said CJ CheilJedang’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Kim Chul Ha in his speech at the ceremony.

“Firstly, Bio-Methionine will be the first major new product that will decide the future of CJ’s BIO business for next 50 years. Secondly, the Bio-Methionine Project will be the first major joint-venture project with a respected chemical company in Arkema. We are also looking forward to the partnership with the Malaysian government (via ECERDC and BiotechCorp) and the State of Terengganu,” he noted.

Commenting on today’s ground breaking ceremony, Menteri Besar of Terengganu, Dato’ Seri Ahmad Said expressed his pride in Terengganu as host to the world’s first green fermentation based bio L-methionine plant that will put the state on the world map for industrial biotechnology.

Dato’ Seri Ahmad commended the role played by ECERDC and BiotechCorp in bringing in biotechnology-related investments into Terengganu, particularly in the Kertih BioPolymer Park and he gave the reassurance that the State Government will give its full commitment in ensuring the successful implementation of these projects.

“The State Government fully recognises the importance of biotechnology as a new economic sector that is able to make a significant contribution both in terms of resources and revenue, instead of relying solely on oil and gas revenue,” he noted.

ECERDC Chief Executive Officer Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John said today’s ground breaking was a milestone for ECER as it signalled the Region’s readiness to receive investments from high value sectors.

“Kertih BioPolymer Park is set to provide commercial opportunities to biotechnology companies from all over the world and we are confident that this collaboration by CJ and Arkema will attract the arrival of more global biotech players in Kertih BioPolymer Park in the near future,” he said.

“Aside from an abundant supply of feedstock, Malaysia has an advantage in market access and overall sound business environment which among other factors, respects private property and Intellectual Property rights. Combined with Government support and policies, this will certainly be a contributing factor towards driving Malaysia’s bioeconomy agenda and achieving its target to become the regional biorefinery hub by 2015,” commented Dato’ Dr Mohd Nazlee Kamal, CEO of BiotechCorp.

Sited within Kertih Biopolymer Park, the CJ Arkema biorefinery complex is slated to be operational by 2013. It will use renewable energy from biomass as opposed to natural gas. The total project is expected to generate a cumulative GNI of RM20.4 billion by 2020 and produce 2,500 green-jobs for Malaysia.