Viva Energy Australia seeks to operate the Geelong Refinery in an environmentally sustainable manner. We are committed to pursuing the goal of no harm to people and protecting the environment. We call this Goal Zero. This goal is outlined in Viva Energy’s 'Our Commitment to HSSE' policy.

Given our commitment to Goal Zero, the Geelong Refinery is focused on minimising environment risk by:

  • Operating under an Environment Licence issued by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPAV). 
  • Maintaining an environmental management system that is audited regularly.
  • Engaging regularly with stakeholders including Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPAV) and the community. As part of this engagement, environmental matters are discussed at the quarterly Community Advisory Panel meetings. 

Our environment program at the refinery covers five major areas:

Geelong Refinery Air QualityAir Quality

Oil refineries manufacture fuel and other oil products.  A bi-product of this process is that emissions are released.

These emissions are closely monitored by Viva Energy and EPAV to ensure minimal risk of impact to the environment and human health.

Our emissions have significantly reduced over the last decade. This reduction has been achieved through programs that include:

  • The design and maintenance of  processing units and gas compressors that collect emissions and reuse them as part of the system;
  • Investments valued at over $13million to improve the gasoline storage tanks.  These works commenced in 2007 and include the installation of internal floating covers that sit on the top of tanks, reducing vapour emissions from the tanks. Monitoring has found that between 2004 and 2014 hydrocarbon emissions from the refinery have reduced by more than 86% from 2,256 tonnes/year to 285 tonnes/year.
  • The addition of  a filter to the Residual Catalyst Cracking Unit (RCCU) in 2007, which has seen the emission levels of solid particles emissions reduce by more than 50%.
  • Valued at $210 million, the commissioning of the Benzene Saturation Unit in 2006. Monitoring has found that Benzene emissions from the refinery have reduced by 90% from 30 tonnes/year in 2003/2004 to now around 3 tonnes per year.
  • A mature and effective leak detection and repair program; and
  • The commissioning of the a) $160 million ultra- low sulphur diesel production facility: in 2004. This has resulted in lower sulphur emissions from vehicles, trucks and equipment using diesel.

We are committed to ensuring acceptable air quality, spending over $100,000 each year monitoring the air around the refinery. Our monitoring program regularly measures emissions including Greenhouse Gas; Nitrogen Oxides & Carbon Monoxide; Fluoride; Sulphur Dioxide; Particulate & Visible Emissions; Odour; Benzene and Hydrocarbons. These results are submitted to the EPAV and published in the Annual Performance Statement.

Monitoring conducted by independent NATA accredited consultants, has found that local industrial emissions had minimal impact on the air quality surrounding the Geelong Refinery and that emissions from the refinery remain well within public health and environmental guidelines. 

The flare is one of the most visible parts of the refinery and can cause concern to members of the community - particularly when it is bigger than normal or producing smoke or noise.

However, the flare is actually a safety valve. For more information about the flare's role at the refinery read the Flare Fact sheet (PDF 42.1KB).

Geelong Refinery Water ManagementWater Management

Water plays an important role in the refining process.

Water plays an important role in the refining process in two primary ways:

  1. Steam: is used to heat the oil. Over 60% of this water is recycled and comes from the Northern Water Plant. Viva Energy, then Shell, invested over $47.5 million in the Northern Water Plant
  2. Cooling the product: water circulated from Corio Bay is used in the production process to cool down the products being made. This is considered the most effective method of cooling, in comparison to using drinking or recycled water.

Rain water run-off water is treated through a two-stage process at the refinery to remove any remaining oil product before it is allowed to be released into the bay. It passes through the Controlled Discharge Facility and Dissolved Air Floatation to ensure that it can be safely returned to the natural environment. Monitoring shows that the water released to the environment is of a quality that does not impact on human health or the environment. Since the implementation of the Water Master Plan, completed in 2007, there has been a significant improvement in the quality of the water discharged.

Northern Water Plant

The Northern Water Plant is a state of the art water recycling plant that saves around 2,000 million litres of drinking water each year that is the equivalent to the water used in 10,000 homes. This project, valued at over $100 million, was a 10 year collaborative project between both the State and Federal Governments, Barwon Water and the Geelong Refinery. 

Trade Waste (water that has been used in refinery processes) is sent to the Northern Water plant for treatment and then returned to the refinery where it is reused.

The water plant, located adjacent to the refinery, is important to our business and the Geelong community as it significantly reduces the amount of drinking water the refinery uses. We have instigated programs which have increased the amount of recycled water that is used at the refinery. Last year we treated 180 ML of water  through the treatment plant and we aim to use at least 90% recycled water in our processes.

For more information please read the Northern Water Plant background (PDF 1.8MB) document.

Geelong Refinery waste managementWaste Management

Eliminate, reduce, re-use and recycle or treatment and disposal.

Like all major manufacturing plants, waste at the refinery is generated from production, maintenance and administration activities. Viva Energy has a waste management program founded on the understanding that an effective waste management minimises risk to  people and the environment.

There are two main components to waste management. The first is to eliminate, reduce, reuse, or recycle waste. If this cannot be achieved, the waste product is then treated, used by other industries or disposed of appropriately.

Eliminate, reduce, re-use and recycle

Where possible we re-use products that are used through the refining process. This includes re-using products such as oil drums in the refinery, and supplying products for re-use by other industries. In 2013 we started re-using catalyst (silica based materials used to split the hydro-carbons during the refining process). This has diverted around 1300 tonnes/year of prescribed waste from landfill for re-use in the cement industry. Another example is the sulphur that is extracted during the refining process and is used for fertilizer manufacturing.

In 2013 the refinery introduced a Waste Transfer Station on site. This has allowed items including soil from excavations, scrap steel, empty used drums, used pallets and scrap timber, and waste concrete and asphalt to be re-used. In the last two years over 2,400 tonnes  of waste have been processed through the waste station.

Treatment and Disposal

Through the refining process, and in the storage of fuel products in tanks, a waste product called “sludge” is created. The sludge from the refinery is put into geo-bags, constructed from a porous  membrane. The water is removed through evaporation and the remaining  de-watered sludge  is then mixed with mulch. Over a three to nine month period, the sludge is converted into compost, which is then used throughout the refinery, including the land which buffers the refinery from roads and other surrounding industry.

Geelong RefinerySoil and Groundwater

Management of soil and groundwater quality at the Refinery is an important part of the site’s environmental management.

Management of soil and groundwater quality at the refinery is an important part of the site’s environmental management. Refining has the potential to impact soil and groundwater quality due to spills or leaks of hydrocarbons or fuel products. Impacts to soil and groundwater quality need to be managed to prevent potential impact to the environment, both in the surrounding vicinity on land and in the adjoining water ways including Corio Bay.

To prevent movement of existing contamination, the refinery has three containment trenches on the eastern boundary of the refinery and two additional trenches on the Corio Bay foreshore area. These trenches are filled with crushed rock and a plastic membrane (on new sections) to collect hydrocarbons in groundwater to retain these within the refinery boundary. Groundwater is collected from the trenches, hydrocarbons are recovered and the water is treated via trade waste (see above). The refinery has completed ecological studies of the Corio Bay foreshore area adjacent to the refinery, which found that generally there is no noticeable difference in environmental conditions from other areas of Corio Bay (ERM, 2008).

To support: soil and groundwater management, Viva Energy has implemented a Landscape Management Plan on the foreshore area adjacent to the refinery. Working with several stakeholders, such as City of Greater Geelong, Department of Environment, Primary Industries and the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, Viva Energy has invested over $700,000 during 2014/15, managing historical impacts and re-vegetating and regenerating the foreshore. The refinery is committed to maintaining this pocket of land.

Geelong RefineryManaging Noise and Odour

We recognise noise and odour from our operations are two environmental concerns for the local community.

From our ongoing engagement with the community, we recognise noise and odour from our operations are two environmental concerns for the local community.


Like any industrial site, the Geelong Refinery creates noise from sources such as machinery, pumps, flaring, valves, vehicles and sirens. Noise levels are managed on site to protect our workforce. This in turn minimises the risk of any noise impact on the community. The refinery regularly monitors noise on site It is important to note that noise is subject to weather conditions, and its impact can vary from individual to individual.

Viva Energy has a number of measures in place to limit the impact of noise from its Geelong refinery operations. These include:

  • Flares equipped with specially designed low-noise tips to minimise noise during flaring;
  • Maintenance and operational procedures to limit noise including, where possible, undertaking major works during the day and maintaining and replacing machinery to limit noise impacts; and 
  • Ongoing monitoring and management of noise.


Fuel and oil products have a distinct odour. Just like at a petrol station, the refinery through the manufacturing process produces odours. Weather conditions such as strong winds, can impact on the strength and where the odour can be detected. There are also other industries which create odour.

Viva Energy understands that odour is of concern to community members and has in place a number of programs to prevent offensive odours including:

  • controls to select products that are less likely to generate offensive odours;
  • testing samples prior to delivery at Geelong to check odour;
  • processing requirements that reduce the likelihood of generating offensive odours. These include processes such as not over heating the product and managing the flow rate.

Community members who hear high noise levels or detect odours and believe that the refinery may be the cause can contact our free call number 1800 651 818. The EPAV can also be contacted on 1300 372 842. The refinery has staff who can respond 24 hours a day, seven days a week to any significant concern.

For further information, please complete our online feedback form or call the community information line on 1800 651 818. 

Geelong RefineryEnvironment Licence

The Refinery operates under an Environment Licence issued by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPAV).

The refinery operates under an Environment Licence issued by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPAV). The licence contains a range of conditions relating to waste acceptance and treatment, air and water discharges, and noise and odour. The refinery is required to monitor and report on the compliance against these conditions. These results are submitted to the EPAV through the Annual Performance Statement. The condition of soil and groundwater under the Refinery has been fully assessed and improvement actions have been agreed with EPAV.

We are proud of the refinery’s environmental achievements during the past ten years which have included investments of millions of dollars in environmental improvements and initiatives. Our licence non-comformances  have decreased  by more than 95% over the last decade from nearly 300 per year in the early-2000s to five in 2014. We acknowledge that there is always more to do and are committed to environmental management, community engagement and continual improvement. Our commitment is always to our goal zero belief.

To ensure that EPAV is aware of any potential impacts, and that there is an appropriate response, reporting of non-compliances is a condition of our environmental licence. In order to demonstrate our open and transparent approach with both the EPAV and the local community, our recent licence non-compliances are listed in the Environmental matters table below.

2018 Environmental matters

Date Incident Description Response
8 February 2018 Emission exceeding sulphur dioxide licence limit. During planned maintenance work a unit at the refinery became unstable resulting in the stack sulphur limit being briefly exceeded
  • The incident was reported to the EPA
  • The unit was stabilised and maintenance activities continued.
31 January 2018  January water testing results 124 water outfall tests conducted on water discharged from the refinery 100% of water tests within licence limits
31 January 2018 January sulphur dioxide air monitoring results
Air quality is continuously measured and analysed for sulphur dioxide to ensure levels stay within clean air quality levels
  • 744 hours monitored
  • Air quality in the ‘Very Good’ category 100% of the time
31 January 2018 January recycling statistics

Recycled water usage from Northern Water Plant

103,842 litres received from Northern Water Plant, saving equivalent volume in local drinking water

Recycled compost produced

240 tonnes of sludge and other waste material recycled, diverted from offsite disposal

Spent catalyst recycled

163 tonnes sent for reuse in cement industry, diverted from landfill

Spent caustic recycled

173 tonnes sent to Northern Water Plant to feed biotreater, diverting from offsite disposal
20 January 2018 Emission, exceeding sulphur dioxide licence limit.
A unit at the refinery tripped resulting in the stack sulphur limit being briefly exceeded
  • The incident was reported to the EPA
  • The unit was returned to normal operations.


Further information on Sulfur Dioxide

SO2 is a by-product of the refining process and at low levels, released as part of the refining process. This is in accordance with Viva Energy’s EPA licence and is aligned with the process safety management.

Higher than usual SO2 releases occur following processing irregularities within the refinery’s treating unit. When this occurs, as a safety mechanism SO2 is released by flare or through the stack, which can result in a non-compliance. This safety mechanism is used by refineries all over the world to prevent liquids entering the process unit.

Sulfur dioxide is a gas that is invisible and has a sharp and unpleasant smell. At low levels, as in the case of this incident, SO2 can cause minor eye, nose and throat irritation, but has no long term environmental or health impacts. For more information on SO2, please see the EPA fact sheet.

240 tonnes of sludge and other waste material recycled, diverted from offsite disposal