Risk report on Mobil reversed


By Wendy Robertson

MELBOURNE — The consultants who reported that Mobil's Williamstown refinery expansion plans did not meet state safety guidelines have reversed their findings following a demand by the Victorian government that they review their original study.

The Sydney-based firm Quantarisk reported last April that people living within one kilometre of Mobil's Gellibrand Pier installation, in the suburb of Williamstown, would be at risk if there was an explosion or flash fire. Suppressed by both the former Kirner Labor government and the present Kennett Coalition government, the report was obtained and released three weeks ago by Greenpeace.

Now it transpires that industry minister Phil Gude asked Quantarisk to "review additional data supplied by the company" after private talks with the operators of both the Gellibrand and Breakwater pier installations, Mobil and Kemcor. In a letter to the former premier and MLA for Williamstown, Joan Kirner, dated October 15, Gude claimed that the data provided by the companies for the new report included:

  • new information on the "technical treatment of flammable vapors from crude oil spills and the heat generated by large oil fires";

  • a range of new risk-reduction measures already completed at the facilities;

  • a clarification of operation procedures during ship-to-shore transfers, the major source of risk mentioned in the original report.

The new eight-page report was described by Gude as an addendum to the original 100-page document, but it reverses the finding that there were unacceptable risks arising from Mobil's expansion plans.

Matt Ruchel, Greenpeace's community campaigner, told Green Left Weekly that "it seems very convenient that the government has come up with new data provided by Mobil and Kemcor. It smacks of a 'greenwash'."

Greenpeace is demanding an "independent peer review" of the amended report. This would involve three independent people looking at the new findings.

Ruchel said that findings in new overseas reports, that the amount of vapours released from certain storage tanks was unlikely to be of a level that could be ignited, were dubious. Similar oil tanks had ignited in the recent fire at Sydney's Kurnell refinery, he said.