Global oil giant British Petroleum (BP) has announced that it will close its Bulwer Island refinery in Brisbane because of the emergence of major export-based refineries of Asia operating on a lower cost base.
Speaking at a press conference in Melbourne, Andy Holmes, President of BP Australasia, said the emergence of low cost Asian refineries had “transformed the market” and forced BP’s hand to shut down the Brisbane-based refinery.
“[It has] presented the Bulwer operation with an unsurmountable challenge,” he said.
According to the article on ABC.NET, the closure of the Bulwer Island refinery will result in massive job loss, as BP plans to reduce staff numbers from 380 to only 25 by 2015.
Mr Holmes said the company had invested heavily in the Bulwer Island refinery in an effort to keep it open.
“This is a difficult day of the people of Bulwer and we are doing everything we can to support them,” he added.
“Every effort will be made to minimise that disruption and given the quality of our people I am sure they will be of considerable interest to other employers in the oil and gas sector in Queensland and beyond.”
BP’s move to close its Bulwer Island refinery comes after Shell decided to sell its Australian refinery as well as 870 petrol stations to Vitol for $2.9 billion.
The Opposition’s Treasury spokesman, Chris Bowen, said the Government needed to come up with a plan to deal with the job losses.
“I understand that BP is making steps to retain some of the workers but obviously not all,” he said.
“Refining has been under challenge in Australia for many years now. We’ve seen refineries across Australia dealing with those challenges. Obviously we’d encourage BP and [federal] and state governments to work cooperatively to ensure every assistance is given to those workers.”
Australian Workers Union Queensland secretary Ben Swan said BP’s decision to close its Brisbane refinery was met with shock and disbelief by workers.
Once again, manufacturing jobs have been shed, with little thought for how these workers might make their way in a difficult labour market,” he said.
“The fact this has come with no consultation makes it even harder for our members to absorb.”
Mr Holmes said he did not believe that BP’s decision to close its refinery would affect Australia’s energy security, but Griffith University’s Dr Vlado Vivoda, who specialises in researching energy security, thinks otherwise.
“Our supplies are essentially subject to the security of supply lines that bring petroleum products from international markets, particularly from Singapore, which we are becoming increasingly reliant on,” he said.
“An event at a particular refinery in Singapore could have significant ramifications on our refined petroleum product supplies in Australia.”
According to BP’s website, the Bulwer Island refinery produces 101,000 barrels of oil per day. The company’s other refinery is located in Western Australia.