MELBOURNE, Australia — Over 300 jobs in Victoria will be lost as ExxonMobil closes one of the last of its remaining oil refineries in Australia after it was deemed it no longer economically viable.
The Altona refinery in the southwest of Melbourne has been in operation since 1949 and supplies around half of Victoria’s refined fuel.
However, after extensive review of operations, the U.S. company has decided to pull the plug.
This announcement comes several months after BP shut down its last remaining oil refinery in Australia in October last year and converted the site to an import terminal.
Altona will also be converted to an import terminal that manages the import of liquified natural gas. It will remain in operation while transition work is done, however, no closure date has been given.
“We are grateful for the tremendous efforts by our employees to improve the viability of the operation,” ExxonMobil Australia Chairman Nathan Fay said. “We extend our thanks to the federal government for the significant support offered to Altona and other refineries. Our decision to convert our facility to a terminal is not a reflection of those efforts.”
Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the decision was “extremely disappointing.”
“Our thoughts are with all of the refinery’s workers, their families, and the local community businesses that will be impacted by this decision,” Taylor said. “The Government will continue to work with the sector to support Australia’s refining capability and fuel security, which will support our farmers, miners and truckies into the future.”
United Workers Union (UWU) criticised the government saying in a statement that the lack of clear plans for the future of Australia’s energy supply and manufacturing were causing multinational corporations to pull out of the country.
“The closure of the Altona site, without any plan to repurpose these workers’ skills for future industries, is a terrible missed opportunity,” UWU national secretary Tim Kennedy said.
The Morrison government has a fuel security package available with the goal of increasing domestic storage and to hold a sovereign refining capability that meets the nation’s needs during an emergency but ExxonMobile hasn’t taken it up.
“From what I can tell, they haven’t taken the six-month government support, so [it] feels inevitable they close it,” MST Marquee energy analyst Mark Samter told the Australian Financial Review prior to the closure announcement.
ExxonMobil said it would remain a major supplier of energy through its operation of the Gippsland Basin joint venture with BHP Billiton, which supplies 40 percent of eastern Australia’s energy needs.