THE Federal Government is considering a bold proposal that would see part of the disused Gove refinery transformed into a strategic fuel storage facility.

The plan would see tanks at the Rio Tinto Alcan Gove Fuel Farm converted to store up to 160 megalitres of fuel, as the Government seeks to shore up its local supply chains in Australia’s north.

Detailed plans for the project — put forward by a consortium comprising the Airport Development Group and the Gumatj Aboriginal Corporation and obtained by the NT News — have been sent to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

“As Australia’s North grows in strategic importance; for great power competition throughout the Indo-Pacific region, regional humanitarian assistance and disaster response, as well as domestic growth in multiple sectors, the urgent need for additional fuel storage is real,” the consortium’s submission says.

“An opportunity exists for competent and qualified parties, in co-operation with the traditional owners, the Gumatj Corporation, to recommission and develop parts of the Rio Tinto Alcan Gove Fuel Farm facilities as a commercial seaboard fuel terminalling and fuel storage operation.”

The proposal follows last year’s announcement that a commercially operated military fuel reserve would be built in Darwin. Details of that project remain scarce but Chief Minister Michael Gunner has described it as “thumpingly large”. Last year, Energy Minister Angus Taylor established a $200 million program to boost diesel storage facilities amid concerns Australia held fewer than four weeks’ supply of petrol, diesel and jet fuel.

“New storage in strategic locations is one of the program objectives,” a spokesman for Mr Taylor told the NT News.

“Darwin and the Northern Territory more broadly present as potentially attractive locations for additional diesel storage.” The consortium says its proposal would help assure liquid fuel supplies in the NT, which were “highly vulnerable to disruption from natural crises and maligned factors”.

“Australia is one of the only nations in the developed world with no mandated minimum reserves of fuel stocks for an emergency, but relies instead on economical but risky just-in-time delivery for fuel,” the submission says.

“While this approach works well in peacetime, and undoubtedly helps keep costs down, it has left Australia’s supply chains at greater risk in an emergency.”

The consortium’s Gove proposal would see five of nine existing tanks recommissioned to provide between 120ML and 160ML of storage for refined and unrefined fuel.

“The finished facility would be one of the largest fuel storage facilities on the coast between Perth and Brisbane and is strategically located on Australia’s northern coast in a protected deepwater port,” the proposal says. Rio Tinto is set to begin work demolishing its Gove refinery next year.

“Rio Tinto Alcan has existing plans and a closure budget for clean-up and removal of the facilities but are supportive of a commercially sustainable operation taking over the facilities and are prepared to direct their closure budget into a viable recommissioning project,” the proposal says.

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