Singapore is making more room by putting its oil reserves back into the ground. It might sound easy, but the task is an enormous engineering challenge that might pave the way for a new underground city for one of the world’s last city-states.
They’re called the Jurong rock caverns. According to CNN, the caves are about 150 meters below the ground and taller than a nine-story building. Once they’re finished, they’ll hold 9 million barrels of hydrocarbons, which includes oil.
Jian Zhao, Professor of Geomechanics at Australia’s Monash University, explained that land in Singapore is at a premium, making underground storage a feasible idea.
“We have good rock geologists in Singapore who can build caverns. The idea is to make the city more liveable by putting everything undesirable underground.”
Singapore’s latest statistics shows that the population density in 2014 was 7,615 people per square kilometer; in the United States, it’s roughly 33. Only Macau and Monaco are more densely populated.
Although the Jurong caverns project is a first for South East Asia, other countries have made underground oil storage work, like Japan and South Korea (two other countries with high premiums on land). Norway also has man-made caverns for water treatment.
The Strait Times reports that the first cave was opened in 2014, and four more are still under construction. The first stage of the project cost about $700 million and freed up 60 hectares (148 acres) of industrial land for use.
The caves are located underneath the Banyan Basin and the man-made Jurong Island — a heavily secured area. The JTC Corporation is handling the development, and the caves will support companies like Chevron Philips and Shell with their oil storing needs.
Once finished, the caves will support Singapore’s $300 billion oil industry. The tiny nation has virtually no natural resources of its own, but according to the Economic Development Board, it’s one of the top three export refining centers in the world.
Prof. Zhao sees this as one of the first steps for Singapore to realize the potential of putting things in the ground. He envisions a future where everything from power stations, to water treatment plants, to people could go under the earth.
According to the New York Times, the government is even considering an underground “science city” that would house 4,000 people. Zhao explained there might be some difficulties at first, but nothing that can’t be overcome.
“A lot of facilities can go underground if you fully utilize the underground space. In the beginning there might be a psychological issue, but as long as we have proper lighting and proper ventilation, gradually people can overcome the idea of working and living underground.”
In the meantime, Singapore will concentrate on putting oil back into the ground.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]