Geelong’s gas port plan could alleviate Victoria’s energy crisis, says Viva boss Scott Wyatt

“Now is exactly the wrong time to develop a new gas terminal in a thriving regional community that has already made it clear that there is no social permit for Viva to continue,” said Jono La Nauze of Environment Victoria, whose organization fight backs to block project from regulatory approval.

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Rather than exploring ways to increase supplies, he adds, demand-side initiatives, such as Victoria’s “gas substitution roadmap,” released Saturday, could reduce gas consumption by reducing the number of gas connections in new properties and programs to replace old ones to speed up. gas stoves with electrical appliances.

La Nauze says Victoria’s roadmap lacks the necessary “urgency” as it stops banning new gas connections as other jurisdictions around the world have done, but points to a report by the state’s independent infrastructure adviser that gas use could be against Cut in half by 2030 with the “right policy”.

“Reducing gas consumption at that rate would solve short- and medium-term supply challenges, giving hard-to-convert sectors plenty of time to prepare for the transition,” he says.

Viva’s LNG proposal is one of five similar projects underway in southeastern Australia, including one by billionaire Andrew Forrest near Wollongong. While many are targeting startup dates by 2023 and 2024, timelines remain uncertain.

As Viva’s project goes through public hearings, it faces objections from Geelong residents, conservationists, tourism groups and schools. Wyatt is urging critics to look at it through the lens of balancing energy security and energy transition, while also avoiding the need to drill more gas fields or build new pipelines to bring gas from north to south. He also says that unlike AGL’s failed attempt to build an LNG import terminal at Victoria’s environmentally sensitive Crib Point, Viva’s plan focuses on an existing refinery and industrial port facility that already receives large numbers of oil tankers each year.

“One of the big challenges we have in the energy debate is that it’s a bit of a ‘one or the other’, but the reality is that you’re not just shutting down your current energy systems and replacing them with renewables… you need a level of security. around your traditional fuels because they are so critical to the economy and our entire way of life,” says Wyatt.

“This project does not stand in the way of actually making the transition, it fills a gap for a certain period of time in order to maintain the supply and to enable a sensible transition. I think we all really want the same thing.”

For Wyatt, a community campaign against the LNG terminal is the latest challenge he must face after a turbulent two years for the ASX-listed fuel supplier, which runs the Shell and Liberty filling stations in Australia. In 2020-21, lockdowns confined people to their homes, destroyed fuel consumption and pushed the Geelong refinery to nearly a breaking point. BP and Exxon’s local refineries closed their doors. Viva decided to remain open after the formation of a federal government support package for the industry.

Fast-forward to 2022, and the industry has shifted from a crisis of demand to one of supply. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has turned the market upside down as countries around the world eschew shipments of Russian crude oil and widen a global deficit. Wyatt says the decision to keep the Geelong refinery, despite the heavy losses, has now put the company in an enviable position. “It has helped us maintain good, continuous supplies to our markets at a time when all traditional oil supply chains have been completely disrupted,” he says.

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Wyatt, a former Shell executive who has led Viva since 2014, has big vision for the company’s Geelong refinery as the transition to cleaner energy accelerates. The first is the LNG terminal, but the company is also committed to plans to start zero-emission production of “green hydrogen” for heavy vehicles with hydrogen fuel cells. It also focuses on the development of a solar park and the blending and processing of biofuels.

Wyatt hopes to lead a company by 2030 that has made meaningful progress in developing cleaner energies, moving them from “concepts and ideas to real commercial realities” that can compete with the traditional fuels that Viva makes and sells.

“As we approach that 2030 period, the success for me will be to have a material, non-traditional business… but to recognize that we also still have an important role to play in many traditional areas,” he says. “They can go hand in hand, and it’s all part of that longer-term transition.”

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