The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) announced on Tuesday it had granted a development licence, allowing Viva Energy to upgrade its Corio Refinery.
The application was first announced in June, a year after the company announced it would spend millions to introduce low-sulphur petrol in 2024.
The development licence granted by the EPA is subject to conditions.
Under the plans, a new gasoline treatment unit would use hydrogen to remove sulphur from gasoline blend components.
Dale Cooper, Viva Energy’s executive general manager of refining, said he is very pleased to receive development approval for the project and said “planning and investment in the ULSG project was well underway.
“The project will see up to 300 people employed during peak construction and we will continue to work to ensure all work is completed safely and minimise any impacts on the community and environment,” Mr Cooper said.
“The addition of the new ULSG unit will allow us to produce the cleanest fuel that has ever been manufactured at Geelong Refinery.
“This is another reason for Geelong to be proud of its advanced manufacturing capability.”
According to the company, the upgrades will provide a cleaner fuel with health, environmental and engine performance benefits, and bring Australia’s fuel into alignment with similar international standards.
Proposed upgrades also include distillation towers, new furnaces, hydrogen compressors, two-pretreatment reactors, and civil and structural foundations for the new equipment.
In a statement, EPA Victoria said it was satisfied the upgrade can be achieved while protecting human and environmental health.
One of the biggest critics of the application was nearby Geelong Grammar School, which submitted two submissions through law firm Harwood Andrews.
The school had concerns over noise and odour.
Under the licence’s conditions, Viva Energy must provide the EPA with various plans detailing how it will mitigate, among other factors, noise emissions.
Australia’s fuel quality standards currently allow up to 150 parts per million of sulphur in regular unleaded petrol, and 50 parts per million of sulphur in premium unleaded petrol.
The Viva upgrade will see petrol produced at ten parts per million of sulphur.
The move will bring Australia closer to European and North American petrol standards, where low-sulphur fuel has already been adopted.
The decision comes after a months-long consultation period, involving the local community and government bodies.
The upgrades are part of the federal government’s $250m refinery upgrades program, which will see the government put $125m towards the Geelong refinery, with Viva Energy to match that commitment.
In assessing the application the EPA said it “considered issues including noise emissions during construction and while in operation, impacts to human and environmental health and management of waste by products”.