Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni has vowed to put politics aside and work with the Morrison government to ensure the Lytton oil refinery in Brisbane – which will be one of only two remaining refineries in Australia – does not shut its doors.

Amid growing fears about Australia’s fuel security following the  announcement ExxonMobil will close its Altona refinery in Melbourne, Mr de Brenni said he would be doing everything possible to ensure Ampol’s Lytton refinery did not share the same fate.

Queensland’s Energy Minister Mick de Brenni: “We agree we’ve got to do whatever is necessary.” Attila Csazar

In his first major interview since being given the energy portfolio by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk late last year, Mr de Brenni also said coal-fired power would still play an important role in Queensland’s energy mix despite the Sunshine State aiming to reach 50 per cent renewables by 2030.

He revealed he would establish a Ministerial Energy Council including industry and unions to help Queensland meet the ambitious renewable target as well as ensure the much-hyped hydrogen sector becomes another multibillion-dollar export industry.

As speculation mounts about the future of the Lytton refinery, Mr de Brenni said he had met with federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor in Canberra this month to discuss the financially stricken asset.https://9ad3d2afdaab3e4fd7d47d06c600da08.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlAdvertisement

“I had a conversation with Minister Taylor about that and I know that he’s working very closely with them and we’re in lock-step with them with our commitment to keeping that refinery open,” he said in an interview with The Australian Financial Review.

“I think it’s incredibly important that we maintain all those jobs in Queensland and fuel security, of course. We agree we’ve got to do whatever is necessary.”

Mr de Brenni said he had spoken to union representatives from the Lytton refinery and was scheduled to talk to Ampol managers this week.

Ampol’s Lytton refinery, at the mouth of the Brisbane River, employs about 500 workers, but recorded a $145 million loss last year.

Ampol’s Lytton refinery in Brisbane lost $145 million in 2020. Bloomberg

The closure of the Lytton refinery would be another major embarrassment for the Morrison government, which has become increasingly concerned about fuel security since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Taylor has offered financial assistance to keep refineries open, but only Viva Energy has so far accepted the subsidy for its Geelong refinery.

Mr de Brenni said he did not believe the rapid influx of wind, solar and pumped hydro projects into Queensland would “cannibalise” the profitability of the state-owned fleet of coal-fired power stations.

Renewables make up about 21 per cent of the state’s energy generation.

“We will need to maintain that dispatchable energy that is currently generated by our government-owned fleet – which is powered primarily by coal – for the foreseeable future,” he said.

But the Energy Minister admitted the fact the coal-fired power stations were publicly owned meant they would be better at absorbing any falling profitability from being squeezed out of the energy mix.

Mr de Brenni, who is also the Minister for Renewables, Hydrogen, Public Works and Procurement, said the state’s fledgling hydrogen industry would be the key to the successful transition to a low-emissions economy.

Mr de Brenni wants to create a new multi-billion dollar hydrogen industry. Attila Csazar

He was confident a hydrogen industry based in Central Queensland could match the success of the state’s $80 billion LNG industry, which took seven years to bring to get off the ground.

“If we are going to get export capability in that space in the timeframe that customers such as Japan and Korea want it it is going to have to be all shoulders to the wheel, not just government’s,” he said.

“I have no doubt we will have a significant export hub out of Central Queensland. We cannot get to a renewable energy future without being able to manage the variability in solar and wind, so hydrogen is the best answer we have for doing that.”

As the new kid on the block among fellow energy ministers, Mr de Brenni was keen not to start picking fights with his new colleagues, including Mr Taylor.

He said he expected the Morrison government to follow the lead of countries and companies around the world and adopt the net-zero emissions by 2050 commitment ahead of international climate talks in Glasgow this year.

“It is the right thing for them to do and I expect them to do it,” he said.

Extracted in full from: https://www.afr.com/companies/energy/queensland-fights-to-keep-lytton-refinery-open-20210216-p57335