Australia still on target to run out of oil by 2020

4 04 2013

This post is a follow up on previous ones on this topic which can be found here here and here

Yesterday, Shell signalled its intentions of getting out of refining oil by selling its remaining facility in Geelong, Victoria:

Shell selling Geelong refinery to focus on international interests (The World Today)

The future is uncertain for more than 400 Shell employees after the company announced it is selling its refinery in Geelong in Victoria.

A year ago, the general manager of the Shell refinery assured the community that he had no plans to close the Geelong operation.

Today Shell Australia announced not a closure but a sale, which it hopes can take place by the end of 2014.The announcement puts the jobs of around 450 people on site and hundreds of contractors in limbo, and also threatens the supply of fuel to Victoria and South Australia.

Australian oil:

Oil refineries produce petrol, diesel, jet fuel, fuel oil, liquefied petroleum, bitumen and heating oil.

Australian refineries are relatively small by international standards. The Jamnagar refinery in India, for example, has a capacity almost double that of all Australia’s refineries combined.

Local refining capacity has fallen from 100 per cent self-sufficiency in 2000 to just over 50 per cent in 2008, with forecasts it will drop to just 18 per cent by 2030.

Shell says if the refinery cannot be sold, one option could include converting the site into an import terminal.

Yeah right…..  “someone” will come along and buy a billion dollar oil refinery knowing full

Shell Geelong Refinery

Shell Geelong Refinery

well (because if they don’t they’re bloody idiots!) that Australia will have no oil left to refine, and well before 2030, let me tell you…..

EDIT:  Swiss-based group Vitol, the world’s biggest oil trader has in fact bought Shell’s interests in a 2.9 billion dollar deal since this post was written.  Vitol owns a fleet of oil tankers, and will be processing oil it will import itself into Australia at the Geelong refinery. 

Vitol spokeswoman Andrea Schlaepfer said the group did not have plans to convert the refinery to a fuel import terminal — a process that would have cost more than 400 jobs…  “The intention is to keep it going”.  This of course makes no difference to the fact we are running out apace, and that we will soon be fully dependent on foreign oil.

The Australian Government’s official 2012 oil production figures are now available at and whilst our depletion rate has fallen from 2011’s dramatic 26.6%, it still doesn’t make good reading at 13.9%.  On current trend, there is no way there will still be 18% capacity at any Australian oil refinery by 2030.
Our oil production has now fallen from 317,000 bbls/day in 2010, to 298,000 in 2011, to 257,000 last year (for a 3 year rolling average depletion rate of some 19%).  Condensate, the oft quoted “saviour” of our liquid fuel capacity, is going down just as fast, with a 3 year rolling average depletion rate of 16%.  And let’s not forget, condensate is not oil, its energy content per barrel is appreciably lower.
Just imagine if the economy shrank at such rates…….!  It doesn’t even bear to think about the consequences of that, maybe unemployment at 90%, total cutting off of pensions, stockmarket worth zero…..  yet these numbers never make the business pages of the papers, let alone the front page where they really belong.
Below is a graph generated through BREE’s own spreadsheet.  Spreadsheets do not lie.
Australian oil depletion trendline

Australian oil depletion trendline

It was pointed out to me that you cannot draw a “trendline” from just three data points and say it’s “factual”.  Of course I totally agree, and it was remiss of me to not point out that, as this post is a continuation of the other several posts I have written about Australia running out of oil by 2020, these three data points above merely complement the other data published earlier.  The trendline from ALL the data still points to us running out by 2020, and only a very major new find, like finding another Bass Straight, would make any difference.  So far, nothing’s changed……



6 responses

4 04 2013

The other factor is that oil refineries are expensive to maintain and are generally in need of lots of maintenance (read something on the oil drum a couple of years ago). No doubt genius beancounters have let it run down over the years through “deferred maintenance” (but look at the budget savings!) It’s something I see in institutions all the time, morons.

4 04 2013

Quite right…….. but maybe, just maybe, KNOWING the place had no future anyway, why spend money on it?

4 04 2013
Graham Palmer

In the short term isn’t the main issue that Australia will become reliant on imported petroleum products at the end of a long supply chain,subject to competition and the demands of other larger markets? In the longer time frame of 17 years, one hopes, we will see reliance on oil diminish to a small part of the energy demand.

4 04 2013

All well and good, except that the rest of the world is also running out, and most of the places we buy from are wanting and needing to keep more and more of their own oil for their own economic development.

More and more countries also need to import…. like Egypt for instance, about which I recently wrote this post and the pool of exporting countries is not growing…. it’s shrinking!

24 04 2013

Well, yeah. Maybe Australians do not need Oil after all. They have plenty of the golden thing in the sky they could use… the problem being that the particular lifestyle the immigrant nation Australia gave the newcomers the last 100 years will be more abruptly changed than they had time to built it up. Every institution and day to day life is adapted to long term (growth-like) change. And now this.

Would it be possible to use CTL in AUS? Maybe. But every refinery installed makes it very appealing to sell the products instead of just use it for the own economy. The future will be decided by countries that are energy mercantilistic and not by those who are bled dry. So the coal will be burned if at all for electricity, which is very tricky to export with all this salt water around 🙂
I think the last governments that would notice this are those with a Common Wealth tradition. Hm, maybe the bad example of Great Britain could be a warning sign.

4 11 2013

The most abundant substance we have is Hydrogen, and science now has cheap and efficient methods of using concentrated solar energy to extract the Hydrogen from water. Cheap, efficient and non polluting. The only thing we lack is a government with the conviction to setup this process. Australia is perfect for such a facility to export to the world.

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