Chapter 1 Introduction
Referral of the inquiry
On 1 November 2012 the Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon Martin
Ferguson AM MP, referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on
Economics (the committee) an inquiry into Australia’s oil refinery industry.
In June 2012 Shell announced that oil refining operations at its Clyde
refinery would cease on 30 September 2012, and the refinery and Gore Bay
terminal would be converted into fuel import facilities by mid-2013. Similarly,
in July 2012 Caltex announced that it would close its Kurnell oil refinery and
convert it into a major oil import terminal. These changes will leave Australia
with five domestic oil refineries.
Australia’s maximum refining capacity will reduce by around 28 per cent
to 32 620 ML. It is forecast that domestic refiners will produce just over
50 per cent of the fuel consumed in Australia with the remainder being
Some groups are concerned that a reduction in refining capacity could be
detrimental to Australia’s energy security. However, the Energy White Paper
2012 (EWP), while noting the importance of energy security to Australia’s
prosperity, does not see major challenges from a reduction in domestic refining
The EWP has cautioned that self-sufficiency as an energy policy is
misplaced and could be extremely costly to the community. One of the keys to
energy security is having diverse supply chains. The EWP is confident that the
diversity of international supply chains will meet Australia’s refined fuel
needs and cover reductions in domestic refining capacity.
Some groups have raised concerns that the refinery closures could lead
to adverse price outcomes for consumers. Again, the EWP discounts this prospect
commenting that ‘the closure of existing Australian refineries is unlikely to
have any major impact on consumer fuel prices, as import parity pricing is the
basis for wholesale and retail fuel pricing in Australia’.
Objectives and scope of the inquiry
The committee’s role is to examine Australia’s oil refinery industry as
set out in the terms of reference. In conducting the inquiry the committee has
taken evidence and taken into account the findings in the Energy White Paper
2012 and the National Energy Security Assessment. The purpose of the
inquiry is not to determine what a minimum level of domestic refining capacity
Conduct of the inquiry
Details about the inquiry were placed on the committee’s website. A media
release announcing the inquiry and seeking submissions was issued on 5 November
2012. In addition, the inquiry was advertised in The Australian on
7 November 2012.
Twenty submissions were received, which are listed at Appendix A. On 30 November
2012 the committee conducted a roundtable public hearing. This format is highly
effective for gathering and scrutinising information in a short time frame.
The submissions and transcript of the roundtable are available on the
committee’s website at: www.aph.gov.au/economics.
Structure of the report
The report has been structured in an easy-to-read format. In discussing
each issue, evidence and other relevant material is provided, followed by the
Chapter 2 provides an overview of Australia’s oil refinery industry
relative to international industry trends.
Chapter 3 examines the economic impacts of declining refining capacity.
The chapter examines a range of factors including the advantages of having diverse
international supply chains and import parity pricing.
Chapter 4 discusses the importance of energy security, the level of risk
and the measures in place to ensure Australia’s energy security needs. The
impact of reduced refining capacity on Australia’s energy security is examined.
The final chapter examines the direct and indirect impact of refinery
closures on employment.