Our History

On March 18, 1954, the Geelong refinery became the first of Australia’s post war refineries to come on stream.

Its commissioning sent ripples of excitement throughout the Geelong community and was widely applauded as a major development in strengthening Australia’s industrial capacity.

More than 1000 people from 14 countries worked on its construction in the early 1950s. World-renowned photographer, Helmut Newton, was commissioned by Shell to photograph the project.

Key milestones in the refinery’s history include:

1949 – Shell Australia announces it will construct an oil refinery in Geelong.

1952 – Plans under way to construct prefabricated housing on 60 acres of land close to the refinery (the area rapidly grew into the Shell housing estate).

1954 – Shell Geelong Refinery is opened by the Governor-General, Field Marshal Sir William Slim.

1955 – The Geelong refinery’s catalytic cracking unit (CCU – cat cracker) starts up.

1958 – The first super tanker enters the Port of Geelong (the 28,000 tonne Velutina).

1960s – New plants are built including the detergent alkylate plant, the lubricant oil plant, hydrotreater 1, hydrocarbon solvents plant, a third crude distillation unit, a second platformer and the vapona resin formulation plant. 

1968 – Geelong Refinery reaches its first million hours without a lost-time injury (LTI).  

1970s – The refinery’s mogas alkylation plant, polypropylene plant and splitter is built as well as a continuous catalytic reformer.

1972 – The Western Port, Altona, Geelong (WAG) pipeline is finalised.

1979 – Geelong Refinery is connected to the State’s power grid.

1980s – PCs are introduced to the refinery.

1985 – Geelong Refinery’s first female operator starts and unleaded petrol is introduced into the Australian market.

1987 – The refinery is connected to the Barwon Water trade waste system.

1992 – The refinery commissions its new residue catalytic cracking unit. At the time it was one of the largest construction projects undertaken in Victoria for many years.

1996 – Shell becomes one of the first companies in Australia to sign up for the Federal Government’s Greenhouse Challenge.

2003 – The refinery’s Contractor Safety Centre opens.

2004 – The refinery’s hydro-desulphurisation (HDS) facility is completed, enabling the refinery to produce ultra-low sulphur (10ppm) diesel fuel.

2006 – Benzene saturation unit (Bensat) completed. As a result of the production of low benzene fuel, benzene emissions from the Geelong Refinery dropped by more than a quarter.

2007 – The refinery’s Water Master Plan Project is completed, providing a substantial improvement in the way the refinery manages its water resources. The plan results in a saving of 300,000 litres of fresh water a day and improved treatment of water leaving the refinery. Upgrades to the RCCU (cat cracker) also reduce particulate emissions.

2008 – Shell Australia and Barwon Water sign an agreement to construct the Northern Water Plant (NWP). The Barwon Water-owned and operated NWP will recycle sewage from homes and trade waste from Shell Geelong refinery. The ‘Class A’ water will be used by the refinery, saving approximately 5% of Geelong’s total water consumption.

2013 – April 4, Royal Dutch Shell announces that the refinery was for sale.

2013 – April 30, Northern Water Plant begins operation.

2013 – October to December, Northern Bay Guarantee social investment program developed as a collaboration with Northern Bay College, Northern Futures, The Gordon and Deakin University.

2014 – January, Northern Bay Guarantee project launched.

2014 – February 21, Royal Dutch Shell announces the sale of the refinery as part of the broader sale of Shell’s Australian Downstream assets to Vitol.

2014 – March 18, Geelong Refinery celebrates 60 years of operation.

2014 – August 13, Viva Energy Australia Group Ltd begins operations of the downstream business including Geelong refinery as an operating facility. Viva Energy commits to investing $1B in the business over five years, including a third in the refinery.

2015 – The Board of Viva Energy approves the construction of a new $50M super crude tank.

2016 – Construction of the 100ML crude tank begins.

2016 – 24 March, Viva Energy launches a national community program that will provide up to $3M funding to a range of initiatives that focus on mental health and substance abuse. A key aspect is a new partnership with headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation and a Geelong-specific affiliation with Northern Futures to address joblessness.