ASX-listed oil company Viva Energy says it is weighing up the addition of a solar farm and battery storage system at its Corio refinery in Victoria, as part of a post-Covid pivot into lower-carbon energies, including the emerging hydrogen industry.
Viva said this week that it was assessing a number of future energy development projects that could be co-located at the refinery in Geelong in Victoria’s south-west, diversifying and strengthening its operations over time and transforming it into an “energy hub.”
Viva – which supplies around one-quarter of Australia’s liquid fuel needs, and is the exclusive licensee of Shell in Australia – already sources around one-third of its annual energy needs from locally generated wind power, through a PPA with Acciona’s 132MW Mt Gellibrand wind farm.
But the company has been inspired to shift further into renewables, with the global economic slowdown wrought by the Coronavirus pandemic providing an opportunity to modernise and diversify the refinery’s operations to better manage future risks.
As RenewEconomy has reported, the Covid-19 slowdown has hit the global oil industry particularly hard, slashing global demand by about 29 million barrels a day and sending US prices into negative territory for the first time in history.
“The refining industry is facing some significant challenges and may take some time to recover due to the impacts on global economies and lower fuel demands,” said Viva Energy CEO, Scott Wyatt in comments on Tuesday.
And while the company’s early focus will be on maintenance work for the refinery, as well as on the development of an LNG supply and storage facility, it is also actively assessing the feasibility of establishing a solar farm on surplus refinery land.
According to a Q&A brochure on the energy hub, Viva is conducting a study to understand the scope, scale and cost of a potential solar farm with battery storage, and would also need to conduct assessments and seek relevant approvals if they were to proceed.
“Operations are being modernised, and the facility is well positioned to expand into new areas of energy supply and production which will reduce our own operating costs, enhance energy supply to south-east Australia, and support the transition to lower carbon energies,” he said.
Viva says the “Energy Hub” will likely involve other commercial partners, while also offering the opportunity to involve local research institutions in the application of new technology and new energies over time.
Wyatt said that Viva Energy would consult widely on the vision for the site and work with governments, the community and partners to develop the full potential of the Energy Hub, including to support the emerging hydrogen industry.
“It is innovative and forward-looking projects like this that will help sustain us in Geelong for the long term and be an important part of Victoria’s energy future,” he said.