Shutting down Altona refinery for the last time

Months of careful planning culminated in the safe shut down of Altona refinery operations in August 2021.
Image Just some of the Altona team that contributed to achieving the refinery shut down safely and as planned.
Just some of the Altona team that contributed to achieving the refinery shut down safely and as planned.

Since Mobil announced its intention to convert Altona refinery to a fuel import facility in February 2021, the Altona team have been hard at work completing critical activities to support this transition.

One of the key activities is a project that will enable Mobil to import fuel through its deep-water port at Gellibrand wharf .The work to complete this project includes cleaning and preparing two tanks and an 8 kilometre pipeline for the storage and transport of refined fuel, as well as installing new pumps to transfer the imported fuel through to Yarraville terminal. These works will soon be finalised, supporting Mobil’s ongoing and reliable supply of fuel to our customers.

Another body of work involved developing a careful and detailed strategy to support the import of refined fuel products to replace refinery production so we could ensure seamless supply to our customers through the transition. The team completing this complex task had to manage the additional challenge of reflecting the ever-changing impacts of COVID19 restrictions on the outlook for fuel demand.

The largest and most challenging activity was to developing a comprehensive safe shutdown plan for the site for the last time. The work involved determining the scope of work to leave the refinery in a safe state while decommission progresses, developing the optimal sequencing of unit shutdowns and ensuring full integration with the terminal conversion milestones.

“Performing a safe shut down of the refinery is not an unusual activity,” said Altona Terminal Conversion Manager, Clinton Gentle.

“We have been performing shut downs of varying degrees as part of maintenance activities throughout the refinery’s operations, and a full site wide shut down was first performed in 2011 and then again in 2019.

“The 2019 shut down in particular provided a foundation for the current shut down team to build on. The difference is that this time, instead of also planning to start the units back up, we focused on preparing the units to move into a decommissioning phase,” said Clinton.

“Whether it was maintaining our operations safely until the shutdown occurred, planning to maintain our supply of fuels throughout the transition, working on the project that will support our future fuel supply chain, or pushing the button that shut down our crude unit on 31 August 2021, everyone at the refinery has contributed in some way to achieving the shut down safely and as planned.

“I’d like to thank our entire workforce for their efforts in maintaining Altona refinery’s legacy and reputation for safety and reliability during this very challenging time. It surely has been an incredible effort that we should all be very proud of.”