Refinery’s social license up for public discussion

Geelong’s bay view: the smoking chimneys and always burning gas flame at Geelong Refinery

An utterly offensive disgrace of last century’s technology that lost its social license to pollute long ago…?

Viva Energy advertisement in Geelong’s CBD.

…or a company the city can be proud of?

Viva Energy obviously thought it was worth thousands of dollars to see if they could convince Geelong’s residents to think the latter.

Recently Geelong has seen the city’s refinery run an intensive and expensive advertisement campaign with street banners, placards and radio commercials not to sell any product to consumers, but allegedly in an attempt to maintain or defend the company’s social license and protect status quo.

“The Geelong Refinery stack has been part of our skyline for a long time. And VIVA ENERGY is investing 350 million dollars to keep it safe and sound, because while the refinery keeps running, we can keep providing jobs for Geelong people. We can continue to offer apprenticeships to local youth. And we can keep pumping fuel into Victoria, and dollars into the community. The Geelong Refinery is here to stay, and so are we. VIVA ENERGY – proud to be part of Geelong.”
Viva Energy radio advertisement, October 2016


What do you think?
What is the first thing you think of when you hear a radio commercial that tells you that “The Geelong Refinery is here to stay”?

We thought it obviously means that they have an internal fear that they won’t be here all that much longer. At the same time, we keep hearing news about new biofuel technologies that possibly could give the refinery an entirely new role in the production of carbon-neutral biofuel.

The Sustainable Hour contacted Viva Energy to hear if they would like to tell our listeners about how they see the future and about what they hope to achieve with the advertisement campaign. Viva Energy declined to talk with The Sustainable Hour.



Where change begins
People in Geelong are driving petrol-fuelled cars and relying on the tourism income from the same travelling in by road. All our Geelong train and bus transport is diesel-fuelled, as is all shipping to the port – and all flights to Avalon are dependent on aviation fuel. As a community we still choose to rely on fossil fuels, and as long as we do that, the refinery obviously has a social licence to operate.

Unless we want to be completely hypocritical and use just imported fuel stock and let some poorer community deal with less stringent emission regulations.

As with coal the aim should be to quickly shift to better, more modern and cleaner technologies. Shutting down all coal-fired power plants overnight without having replacements in place would not an acceptable – or a popular – way forward. In the transport sector, we need to see new policies in place like in Norway where more than half of all cars today are electric or hybrid.

So it would well be argued that instead of talking about the refinery’s social license, let’s work on getting many more bicycles and electric vehicles on the roads, let’s promote an electric train connection between Geelong and Melbourne, appropriate bio-fuel alternatives for aviation, and so on. We need the transport equivalent take up of new technology like there has been in energy production use in the shift to solar and wind.

Richard Buckminster Fuller, an Amercian author, once said that “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” – a viewpoint which could also be included in this conversation.



The comment field below is open for your views, insights and opinions until the exhibition closes on 9 July 2017. Or you can post a comment on Facebook


Discussion on ‘Luminous relic’ in relation to Geelong Refinery

In conversation — Mandy Martin, Alexander Boynes, Guy Abrahams, Bronwyn Johnson and Jason Smith
29 April 2017 from 2.00pm to 3.00pm – Free event

To celebrate Geelong Gallery’s participation in the ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 festival and the exhibition Luminous relic, join us for a dynamic conversation with exhibiting artists Mandy Martin and Alexander Boynes, co-founder and CEO of CLIMARTE Guy Abrahams, executive director of CLIMARTE Bronwyn Johnson and Geelong Gallery director Jason Smith.

This event will be a collaborative examination of the ongoing and cumulative effects of industry on landscapes, fragile ecosystems, human conditions, and remind us of the social and political agency of the artist. The panel will discuss arts capacity to creatively engage and inspire action on climate change through a discussion on ‘Luminous relic’, developed through fieldwork — drawing, filming, photography and performance — in Geelong, specifically in relation to the Geelong Refinery.

» Read more on www.geelonggallery.org.au




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ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE exhibition in Geelong

‘Luminous relic’ presents a major collaborative painting and moving image work by Mandy Martin and Alexander Boynes, with a score by Tristen Parr.

Based on fieldwork around industrial Geelong, this urgent politically charged work examines the ongoing and cumulative effects of industry on landscapes, fragile ecosystems and human conditions.

A sense of intimate connection between industry, carbon emissions, the end of the fossil fuel era, and a lurid dawn heralding freak winds and, far across the ocean, a collapsing ice shelf, underlie the artistic response from each artist.

Mandy Martin paints the body of the Geelong industrial complex into an ice shelf. Her high key reflective surface allows time-lapse moving images of industrial Geelong by Alexander Boynes to play with the element of time in what appears to be a static moment. Tristen Parr’s score adds pathos and gravitas to the contemplative space and sublime proposition of Luminous relic.

The exhibition is on until 9 July 2017. It is complimented by an  In conversation event and  First Friday lecture.

» Read more on www.geelonggallery.org.au



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FESTIVAL EVENT IN GEELONG:

Lecture about ‘Luminous relic’ and Mandy Martin

Geelong Gallery’s director, Jason Smith, will present an insightful lecture on exhibiting artist Mandy Martin.
2 June 2017 from 10.15am to 12.00pm
Cost: $12

Jason Smith explores Mandy Martin’s prominent career and her focus on conservation, the landscape and the social and political agency of the artist in relation to ‘Luminous relic’.

» Read more on www.geelonggallery.org.au










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Read more on arts and climate:

» Centre for Climate Safety:
Guy Abrahams: Harnessing the power of the arts for change






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Production of clean fuels

In the light of the global Paris Agreement on climate change, which Australia has ratified, we feel it is important to open up a conversation about what this means for our local community and businesses. So – inspired by their advertisement campaign – we asked Thys Heyns of the Geelong Refinery whether he has been following the latest scientific developments, such as the reverse photosynthesis discovery which we did an interview about with a scientist in Copenhagen in a previous program, The Sustainable Hour no. 118.

The Danish scientist Claus Felby told us that refineries in the future could be producing clean biofuels with the methods they are developing.

Others have talked about ammonia as a new type of fuel that can replace petrol and diesel. When burned, ammonia produces water and nitrogen. We have heard of a few companies bringing in this technology from America.

However, this was not a conversation Heyns wanted to engage in. He left us wondering why not.



New technology hoped to improve biofuel production as an appropriate green energy source

As an alternative to liquid fossil fuels, biodiesel extracted from microalgae is an increasingly important part of the bioenergy field. While it releases a similar amount of CO2 as petroleum when burned, the CO2 released from biodiesel is that which has recently been removed from the atmosphere via photosynthesis meaning that it does not contribute to an increase of the greenhouse gas. Furthermore, research has shown that microalgae produces a much higher percentage of their biomass to usable oil in a significantly smaller land mass than terrestrial crops.

» Science Magazine – 28 April 2017:
Fast, low energy, and continuous biofuel extraction from microalgae



Claus Felby
Claus Felby

Biofuels breakthrough in Denmark

Danish researchers have discovered a totally new way to use the energy from the sun to create biofuels – by the help of clorophyl.

Sunlight can be used to produce fuels and chemicals that we need – in a natural process described as “reverse photosynthesis” where the solar rays break down plant material to produce biofuels. The discovery has the potential to revolutionise industrial production of fuels, by making it cheaper to produce bio fuels than the cost of oil, diesel and petrol.

“This is a game changer,” says Professor Claus Felby from University of Copenhagen, who leads the research. The research results were published in Nature, and their report was downloaded 3,000 times within the first 24 hours after it was made accessible online.

Bio ethanol in fuel
In the US, petrol for cars already today is mixed with 10 per cent bio ethanol. Heading for 15 per cent soon.
In Brazil, they want to increase the share to 27.5 per cent.

» Read more on www.science.ku.dk

Biogennembrud4_560



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Could ammonia also be the clean fuel of the future?

“As vital chemicals go, it’s hard to beat ammonia. Industrial production began in the early 20th century, and it played a key role in the second world war and in two Nobel prizes. It brought about a global revolution in agriculture – today, crops grown using ammonia-based fertilisers feed no less than 48 per cent of the planet. Could ammonia also be the clean fuel of the future?”

“Holbrook’s technique could be a big piece of the clean energy puzzle, alongside technologies like carbon-capture and storage, and nuclear, says Steve Wittrig of the Clean Air Task Force, a non-profit organisation based in Boston, who was previously the director of advanced technologies at BP. “Ammonia is not well known, but it’s one of the few places I’ve looked that there is a really promising alternative being worked on,” he says. “There’s unlimited nitrogen in the air, and there’s unlimited water. You can see this scaling up to a global technology.””

» New Scientist | Insight – 31 July 2013:
Grab ammonia out of thin air for fuel of the future



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Norway’s goal: Only zero-emission car sales by 2025

“Electric vehicles currently have difficulties reaching 3% market share in most countries. Norway has long been the exception to the rule and it is now breaking more market share records. In September 2016, 28.8% of new car sales were plug-in electric vehicles and all-electric cars had 19.0% market share. It’s 10 times what most countries are doing these days thanks to EV incentives like the 25% VAT tax exemption. Norway pushed the limits last month with record plug-in electric sales reaching 37% market share in the country’s passenger car market. (…) At this pace, Norway could reach the tipping point of the majority of sales being electric by the end of the year. The country has the goal of 100% of new car sales to be zero-emission vehicles starting in 2025.”

» Electrec – 15 February 2017:
Norway is reaching tipping point for electric vehicles as market share reaches record breaking 37%



One comment

  1. What about the concept of converting the refinery to production of biodiesel for a high-speed Geelong-Melbourne passenger ferry service, using Western District wheat stubble as feedstock?

    This might (eventually) push Viva in the direction we want it to go, but with less opprobrium from the community on loss of employment?

Comments