Main content | back to top
Shell Geelong refinery has been operating for 55 years. The refinery supplies about 50% of Victoria's fuel and about 30% of South Australia's fuel.
Mark Schubert, Refinery General Manager
Thank you for visiting Shell Geelong refinery’s website to learn more about our operations.
Shell has been an integral part of the Geelong region for the past 55 years and like many other businesses, we have evolved to adapt to changing social and market conditions. However, one aspect remains unchanged and that is the calibre of our employees who are undoubtedly the foundation of the business.
Being a part of a global organisation has helped build our skills base. When we embark on complex projects, we can call on the global expertise within Shell to work with our contractors and us. This has built a base of skills in Geelong, which supports others and us in the manufacturing sector.
We also train apprentices each year through G-Force Recruitment. In addition, the refinery’s human resources department works with local secondary schools to inform them of the opportunities within manufacturing and to support students who want to pursue this career path.
These initiatives are examples of how we aim to ‘build capacity’ within our industry. Building capacity is something we also seek to do in our community, with great support from our Community Advisory Panel (CAP). The CAP has helped us to broaden our engagement with the local community and to understand and help meet community members’ needs.
Through our community development work, which includes Employee Community Grants and three social investment programmes, the refinery invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in our neighbourhood each year.
Through these initiatives we ensure the continued relevance of our operations, while helping build our community into a better one in which to work and live.
Construction of the refinery in 1952
On March 18, 1954, Shell Geelong refinery became the first of Australia’s post war refineries to come on stream.
Its commissioning sent ripples of excitement throughout the Geelong community and was widely applauded as a major development in strengthening Australia industrially.
More than 1000 people had worked on the initial construction project in the early 1950s, including a large contingent of migrants with many from Holland.
Key milestones in the refinery’s history include:
- 1949 – Shell Australia announces it would be constructing an oil refinery in Geelong.
- 1952 – Plans under way to construct prefabricated housing on 60 acres of land close to the refinery (the area rapidly grew into the Shell housing estate).
- 1954 – Shell Geelong refinery opens.
- 1955 – The Geelong refinery’s catalytic cracking unit (CCU – cat cracker) starts up.
- 1958 – The first super tanker enters the Port of Geelong (the 28,000 tonne Velutina).
- 1960s – New plants are built including the detergent alkylate plant, the lubricant oil plant, hydrotreater 1, hydrocarbon solvents plant, a third crude distillation unit, a second platformer and the vapona resin formulation plant.
- 1968 – Geelong refinery reaches its first million hours without a lost time injury (LTI).
- 1970s – The refinery’s mogas alkylation plant, polypropylene plant and splitter is built as well as a continuous catalytic reformer.
- 1972 – The Western Port, Altona, Geelong pipeline is finalised.
- 1979 – Geelong refinery is connected to the State’s power grid.
- 1980s – PCs are used within the refinery.
- 1985 – Geelong refinery’s first female operator starts and unleaded petrol is introduced into the Australian market.
- 1987 – Refinery connected to the Barwon Water trade waste system.
- 1992 – The refinery commissions its new residue catalytic cracking unit. At the time it was one of the largest construction projects undertaken in Victoria for many years.
- 1996 – Shell became one of the first companies in Australia to sign up for the Federal Government’s Greenhouse Challenge.
- 2003 – The refinery’s Contractor Safety Centre opens.
- 2004 – The refinery’s hydro-desulphurisation (HDS) facility is completed, enabling the refinery to produce ultra low sulphur diesel fuel.
- 2005 – Benzene Saturation Unit (Bensat) completed. As a result of the production of low benzene fuel, benzene emissions from the Geelong refinery dropped by more than a quarter.
- 2007 – The refinery’s Water Master Plan Project is completed, providing a substantial improvement in the way the refinery manages its water resources and resulting in a saving of 300,000 litres of fresh water a day and improved treatment of water leaving the refinery. Upgrades also completed to the RCCU (cat cracker) reduce particulate emissions.
- 2008 – Shell Australia and Barwon Water sign an agreement to construct the Northern Water Plant (NWP). The Barwon Water owned and operated NWP will recycle sewage from homes and trade waste from Shell Geelong refinery. The ‘Class A’ water will be used by the refinery, saving approximately 5% of Geelong’s total water consumption.
Geelong refinery - Bensat plant
Shell Geelong refinery occupies 120 hectares of land adjacent to Corio Bay in Geelong, Victoria. Shell has one other Australian refinery, the Clyde refinery at Paramatta in Sydney.
Shell Geelong refinery is one of the largest of seven refineries in Australia, supplying about 50% of Victoria’s and about 30% of South Australia's fuel.
The refinery can process up to 120,000 b/d (barrels of oil per day). About 90% of crude and other feedstock arrives at the refinery via ship. Crude oil arrives from the Far East (e.g. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia), West Africa (e.g. Algeria and Gabon), United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, and Australia’s own oilfields via the Western Port-Altona-Geelong (WAG) pipeline and by ship.
Major products produced at the refinery include:
- Petrol (25% being high octane grades);
- Diesel fuel;
- Jet fuel;
- Specialty solvents; and,
Part of this production is low benzene gasoline and diesel with 10 parts per million sulphur, which is made in accordance with the Federal Government’s Clean Fuels Legislation.
Low RVP (vapour pressure) gasoline is made in accordance with Victorian State Government requirements.
The refinery also makes low benzene Avgas.
The use of low benzene petrol from the refinery is helping reduce benzene emissions from vehicles. At the same time, benzene emissions from the refinery - while already well within public health and environmental guidelines - have dropped significantly.
Geelong’s primary distillation produces light and middle distillates and residue. The light distillates are processed to upgrade quality and remove sulphur. They are then split into gas (used as refinery furnace fuel), liquid petroleum gas (LPG), gasoline and kerosene.
The gasoline stream is processed further to improve the octane number. The octane rating is a measure of the resistance of gasoline and other fuels to detonation (engine knocking) in spark-ignition internal combustion engines. The higher the octane rating, the slower the fuel burns.
Middle distillates are light gas oil (diesel) and heavy gas oil. Residue is used primarily as the feedstock to the cat-cracking unit and is also used to make fuel oil. The cat-cracking plant converts residue into gas, LPG, gasoline, diesel products and fuel oil.
The Lyondell-Basell company operates a polypropylene plant on the refinery site that takes propylene feed from the cat-cracker to make polypropylene plastic.
The flare is one of the most visible parts of the refinery. However, the flare is actually a safety valve. For more information about the flare's role at the refinery read the Flare Fact sheet.
About 45% of Geelong refinery’s product is carried by pipeline to the Shell Newport Terminal for distribution throughout Victoria. Another 40% leaves by ship for Australian coastal cities and New Zealand. The rest is taken by road to customers in Geelong and nearby rural areas.
Reducing C02 Emissions
In Shell we recognised some years ago that the time for debate on climate change was over, and we started working to prepare our business for a carbon constrained world.
The Geelong refinery is working to enhance the site’s greenhouse gas and energy management systems and is developing focused greenhouse gas and energy management plans.
Efficiency projects implemented have delivered reductions of 54,500 tonnes of CO2 a year. That is a reduction roughly equivalent to the CO2 emitted in a year by 12,000 cars.
These projects included commissioning two large flare gas compressors, improving combustion efficiency and reducing steam losses.
In the meantime the refinery will continue to manage its greenhouse gas emissions via the state and federal legislated programmes, including:
- Environment and Resource Efficiency Plans (Victorian Environment Protection Act Regulations);
- National Greenhouse & Energy Reporting Act (Federal);
- Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act (Federal); and
- Proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Federal)
Reports will be provided per legislated requirements and summary of actions implemented reported publicly through the Environment Improvement Plan (EIP).
Geelong refinery - Shell and Contractor Safety Centre
The refinery’s health team takes a proactive, structured and risk-based approach to assessing health, reporting on health performance and assessing the potential health impact of projects as well as providing medical and emergency response services.
The health team runs a number of proactive initiatives focused on improving employee health and emotional well-being.
Refinery employees also participate in “Health Watch” which is an epidemiological study examining the health of workers of the petroleum industry in Australia.
The safety of employees and the community is Shell’s number one priority.
The refinery is pleased that our safety record is strong and associated safety management systems have been recognised by Shell as being among the best globally within Shell.
The increasingly high safety standards being achieved is validated through:
- The Victorian WorkCover Authority (VWA) granting the refinery an unconditional safety licence following a review of the refinery’s safety case. The safety case is a comprehensive Risk Management Plan (inspected annually) that identifies potential hazards and implements measures to avert them; and,
- Approval from Energy Safe Victoria for the refinery to operate an Electrical Safety Management Scheme (ESMS). This process involved a rigorous inspection and assessment process lasting about three years. Shell’s application required the refinery to demonstrate how it could not only meet, but better, the safety outcomes and objectives of the Electrical Safety Act 1998.
While the refinery’s record reflects an excellent safety culture, extensive effort is made to sustain and ultimately improve performance.
Goal Zero is a simple message Shell uses to help drive the vision of no harm to people. Workers are also asked to abide by Shell’s 12 Life-Saving Rules. These are clear and simple “dos” and “don’ts” covering activities with the highest potential safety risk.
A key message being promoted every day at the refinery is the importance of individual responsibility and how, collectively, safety performance can be improved when individual standards are lifted.
Shell and the Contractor Safety Centre
The Shell and Contractor Safety Centre reflects international research that has found effective adult learning is more readily achieved in a hands-on (rather than class room) environment.
The safety centre incorporates 18 display areas that deal with:
- Manual handling;
- Electrical isolation;
- Rigging and forklifts;
- Chemical awareness;
- Asbestos removal;
- Hydrojetting and grit blasting;
- Working at heights;
- Hot work;
- Safe mechanical isolation; and,
- Confined space entry.
Many require the learner to participate in an interactive exercise - for example, at the height safety display, learners can check old height safety equipment for faults, practice donning and doffing a safety harness and check various anchor points for suitability.
Shell Geelong refinery and Shell Lara LPG terminal - Safety Case Summary
Safety has the highest priority within Shell and we take a systematic approach to managing safety and preventing incidents that may place our people, our neighbours, the community, the environment and our facilities at risk. This approach is reflected in the Shell Geelong refinery and Lara LPG terminal Safety Case Summary.
Download the Shell Geelong Refinery and Shell Lara LPG Terminal - Safety Case Summary