What are the main countries that Fortrec will market methanol to in Asia?
ML: China is the largest consumer and producer of methanol by a large margin, but reliance on a single market is risky, especially considering the geopolitical tensions. To mitigate disruption risks, we proposed Nauticol a diversification strategy that sees half of the product sent to China and the other half dispersed to different countries, including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and in Southeast Asia. Another argument for this broader portfolio approach is that China is very price-sensitive, which may be a barrier to the blue methanol ESG premium. Other countries in the region are more prepared to pay for a premium, enabling higher margins.
How is Fortrec leveraging its current capabilities and what is the market reception you expect?
ML: Fortrec is a 21 years’ old company with an extensive global presence and solid network in Asia and the Middle East. Even in countries where we don’t have a presence under Fortrec’s banner, we rely on long-standing partners, and we have direct access to all majors. The partnership with Nauticol is a fortuitous opportunity to utilize our geographical footprint to its fullest potential. When we presented the methanol project to our partners in different countries, we found a very expectant market; methanol availability is quite tight at the moment, so the prospect of a long-term, stable product is very attractive. As more governments adopt environmental policies, blue methanol is a very relevant proposition that will bring them closer to their sustainability goals.
What opportunities for methanol do you find in Singapore specifically?
ML: The Jurong Island petrochemical players have a well-established business model, but environmental pressures also lead them to open up to methanol, though this is a slow uptake. A growing sector is in marine fuels, methanol being used mostly as a blending fuel to lower sulfur levels; methanol could be a transition fuel and a viable greener alternative to heavy fuels for terminal operators and bunkering terminals. Fortrec is actively engaging in research and conversations with this sector.
What are some practical considerations in terms of logistics and government support?
ML: Logistics-wise, methanol does not require specific infrastructure because it can be easily transported and stored in tankers, unlike LNG. The government is extremely supportive, and Enterprise Singapore already lent their assistance; we are meeting different government agencies and funds to give the project its deserved exposure.
Do you have a final message?
ML: Echoing Mark’s words, we found a great partner and the project we are working on is incredibly significant from both an economic and sustainability perspective, opening tremendous opportunities to link the molecules from cheap natural gas in Canada with the world’s biggest markets in Asia.
What is Fortrec’s vision for the future?
AB: At Fortrec, we spend a lot of time thinking about the long-term future. For our 2025 strategy, we laid out a few pillars that drive this vision. The first is leadership renewal and succession planning; by empowering people, we can reach Fortrec 2.0, the next stage of growth where we can double our reach and capabilities. Our second pillar is sustainability, and this is where our partnership with Nauticol falls into place, illustrating our long-held belief that Fortrec’s business is about “partners, not products:” CO2 capture and sequestration are not Singapore’s expertise, but it can be realized through the transfer of knowledge from our partners. Sustainability is not just a megatrend, it is at the core of what we do, and investors, governments, landowners and the entire value chain are paying increasingly more attention to this matter. The next step for us is to better record and authenticate our carbon credits; for this, we need external validation and certification.
Trading around our assets and global presence are our two other pillars. What we mean by trading around our assets is having our customers, even if fewer by number, interacting amongst themselves, and ultimately deepen our global network.