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The Age (Australia): Oil spill, plume cost Shell $10,000

The Age (Australia): Oil spill, plume cost Shell $10,000

“SHELL Australia has been fined $10,000 after an Environment Protection Authority investigation of two incidents at the oil giant’s Geelong refinery. The EPA said yesterday two $5000 penalty notices had been issued against Shell for breaches of its licence.”

Friday September 30, 2005

By Ewin Hannan

SHELL Australia has been fined $10,000 after an Environment Protection Authority investigation of two incidents at the oil giant’s Geelong refinery.

The EPA said yesterday two $5000 penalty notices had been issued against Shell for breaches of its licence.

The first incident occurred in May when oil leaked from a pipe on the refinery’s jetty into Corio Bay. The second involved a visible plume from the refinery’s sulphur recovery unit stack.

The EPA’s executive director of regional services, Bruce Dawson, said that while the oil spilt into the bay was a “fairly small amount, it’s something we believe further maintenance and management by Shell could have avoided”.

He said Shell’s EPA licence required no visible plume from the stack.

” While this was an unintentional breach of the licence conditions, the EPA’s investigations revealed that further maintenance planning and precautions could have helped avoid the situation,” Mr Dawson said.

The EPA was considering action against Shell over an oil spill into Corio Bay in April.

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AdvertisementThe authority is also completing an investigation into the effectiveness of Shell’s air monitoring equipment and the company’s failure to have the system accredited.

“Shell’s licence places important requirements on Shell’s performance,” Mr Dawson said. “Significant investment is needed in the refinery’s operations to ensure that these types of incidents can be avoided in the future.

“Shell needs to continue to place an emphasis on improving the environmental performance of the refinery.”

Shell’s acting refinery manager, Alan Greaves, said yesterday the company took its “environmental responsibility very seriously”. “Our vastly improved performance during the past three years is testimony to our efforts,” he said.

“We are also investing tens of millions of dollars on improvements to further protect our environment.

“The changes can’t happen overnight, but they are certainly under way and we are working hard to complete them.

“We regret any impact these incidents caused, particularly in relation to the plume, which occurred during routine maintenance. We plan extensively for this sort of work. However, sometimes the unexpected happens and it did.”

Sue McLean, spokeswoman for a group called Geelong Community for Good Life, welcomed the fines. “I am pleased the EPA has, in particular, taken action over the plume from the stack,” she said.

“However, the incident is potentially worse than depicted by the EPA. It is the cumulative impact of these licence breaches that seriously impacts on community health.”

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