Exxon-Mobil weighs up future of Altona refinery

<p>Fuel major Exxon-Mobil is set to soon decide whether to modernise or close its fuel refinery in Altona in outer Melbourne, in reaction to tougher fuel quality standards the Federal Government has set.</p> <p>Environment minister Ian Campbell said acceptable sulphur levels in petrol will be cut by as much as 70% from January 1, 2008 and in diesel 50-fold from 2009.</p> <p>Australia is adopting standards which broadly conform with those in Europe, forcing upgrades at Australia’s fuel refineries.</p> <p>However, Exxon-Mobil’s Port Stanvac facility in South Australia has already been mothballed, and the refinery at Altona faces an uncertain future.</p> <p>A spokesman for Exxon-Mobil said a decision should be made "during this quarter" on whether the company will commit the millions of dollars required to bring the Altona facility up to standard.</p> <p>Fuel imports from Asia, which account for around 20% of Australia’s fuel consumption, will also have to meet the new standards, which are stricter than those in some of the exporting countries.</p> <p>However, a spokesman for independent fuel importer, Trafigura Fuels, said Asian fuel imports would be able to meet the new requirements because they already had to meet tougher standards in other import markets.</p> <p>The maximum sulphur content in premium unleaded petrol will be reduced in steps from 500 parts per million to 150 ppm from January 1 and to 50 ppm in 2008.</p> <p>Sulphur content in diesel will be reduced from the old standard of 500 ppm to 50 ppm in 2006 and to 10 ppm in 2009. </p> <p>Some refineries are already producing higher quality diesel.</p> <br />