The closure of BP’s Brisbane oil refinery in 2015 is the latest in a string of large-scale Australian job losses.
Drew McQueen knew his two decades at BP’s Brisbane oil refinery were coming to an end.
The 53-year-old crane rigger is one of 355 workers who will lose their jobs when the Bulwer Island plant ceases production in mid-2015.
The Pinkenba site in Brisbane’s north will stop refining 102,000 barrels a day, ending half a century of history.
It will instead be used to store jet fuel, leaving another 300-plus contractors out of work.
The closure of yet another oil Australian refinery has energy experts predicting the end of a local industry within a decade, as Asian refineries continue to produce much higher volumes more efficiently.
The news also follows Holden and Toyota heralding the end of local car making by 2018, and a string of retrenchments at Qantas and throughout the resources industry.
Mr McQueen, who still has a teenage daughter to support, knew there was bad news before Wednesday morning’s announcement.
“There’s always been talk of closing these joints. Today we hear about it,” he told AAP outside the front gates.
“I’ve been here 20 years. I’ve had a good run.”
Fellow crane operator John, who is also in his mid-50s, said the news gave him “a bit of sadness” after seven years at the plant.
He is now weighing up whether to leave Brisbane to find work.
“I’m in a situation where I don’t particularly want to do that but if it arises, then it’s something I will have to eventually look at,” he said.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Queensland secretary Rohan Webb said the retrenched workers were “quite shell shocked”.
“We’re seeing massive job losses across the state so the employment opportunities for these workers are going to be somewhat short,” he told reporters.
Addressing reporters on site, the Bulwer Island refinery’s managing director Tim Wall said much higher production volumes in Asia were to blame, stressing Australia’s carbon tax wasn’t responsible.
“There’s a very large difference between the operating costs of a 100,000-barrel-a-day refinery compared to a refinery … in India that’s operating at over a million barrels a day,” he told reporters.
Australia has just four refineries left, including BP’s Kwinana plant near Perth.
BP Australasia president Andy Holmes said its West Australian refinery was not yet earmarked for closure but declined to commit on its future.
The future is considered marginal for Brisbane’s other refinery at Lytton, run by Caltex, and the other refineries in Geelong and Melbourne.
Energy analysts including Credit Suisse’s Mark Samter and State One Stockbroking’s Peter Kopetz believe the end of local refining may be less than a decade away.
BP’s latest announcement follows Caltex closing its Sydney refinery during the second half of 2014 and converting it to an import terminal.
BP’s latest announcement also comes just four months after the company sacked 300 workers at its Australian headquarters in Melbourne.
The Bulwer Island refinery was built in 1965 by Amoco and bought by BP in 1984.