Petrol and diesel distributor, Viva Energy, is proceeding with a major maintenance project at its Geelong refinery.
The Residue Catalytic Cracking Unit (RCCU) will be maintained under a revised process in response to the impacts of Covid-19.
The project has been restructured to commence earlier than planned and over a longer period of time to better manage the Covid-19 risks according to Viva Energy.
Some work has been deferred until 2021 but preparations are underway with work formally commencing in early July and due to conclude by November 2020.
The refining environment is reported to remain very challenging, with a number of processing units already shut-down due to significant reductions in local demand for jet fuel and petrol, and very weak global refining margins impacting profitability.
“The refining industry is facing some significant challenges and may take some time to recover due to the impacts on global economies and lower fuel demands," said Viva Energy CEO, Scott Wyatt.
“We have decided to commence our major maintenance program while units are already shutdown and refining conditions are weak, and carry out the works over a longer period of time so that we can better manage the Covid-19 risks,” he said.
Viva Energy has also announced that it is assessing a number of future energy development projects that could be co-located with the refinery, diversifying and strengthening operations over time. If implemented, these would establish Geelong as a future 'Energy Hub' for Victoria and South East Australia, providing ongoing employment for skilled workers in Geelong, support the transition to lower carbon energies, and enhance energy security for the country.
Wyatt said that the Geelong Refinery had proudly supplied Victorians with fuel since 1954, and over the last five years Viva Energy had invested more than $450 million to improve safety, reliability and operational efficiencies at the site.
“Operations are being modernised, and the facility is well positioned to expand into new areas of energy supply and production which will reduce our own operating costs, enhance energy supply to south-east Australia, and support the transition to lower carbon energies,” said Wyatt.
“The Energy Hub will likely involve other commercial partners, but also has the opportunity to involve local research institutions in the application of technology and new energies over time.
"This will not only help to provide ongoing employment for the 700 existing workers, but potentially support the development of new jobs and skills in a key regional centre.
“Our early focus is on the development of an LNG supply and storage facility to bring natural gas from production fields in other parts of Australia, or further afield, to where it is needed in Victoria and south east Australia. Along with any development of local gas fields, this can help fill a looming shortfall in gas supply and help keep gas and power costs down.
“We are also assessing the feasibility to establish a solar energy farm on surplus refinery land, support the development of strategic oil stocks, and support the emerging hydrogen industry," he said.
Wyatt said that Viva Energy would consult widely on the vision for the site and work with governments, the community and partners to develop the full potential of the Energy Hub.
“We have been part of the Geelong community for more than 65 years and are excited about the future," said Wyatt. "It is innovative and forward looking projects like this that will help sustain us in Geelong for the long term and be an important part of Victoria’s energy future.”\