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BRISBANE, Nov 22 AAP

November 22 2012, 1:56PM

A major coal port in central Queensland will be used to import fuel as Australia refines less crude oil and mining activity expands, a port authority boss says.

Indian-Australian mining consortium GVK-Hancock and resources giant BHP Billiton own major port facilities at the Abbot Point terminal, north of Bowen.

The port is used to export coal from the Bowen and Galilee basins.

But as Australia scales back its refinement of crude oil, industry leaders at the Major Projects Conference in Brisbane were asked on Thursday if Abbot Point, located near the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, would host a fuel depot alongside railway lines.

North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation chief executive Brad Fish says the expansion of mining operations in the Galilee Basin will increase the demand for petrol in the resources sector.

"As the Galilee Basin develops, it's logical that significant fuel imports will come through Abbot Point," he said, adding the Queensland Department of State Development was examining the idea.

"Obviously, we need to get the port infrastructure there as well."

Mr Fish told the forum the Great Barrier Reef presented challenges to the expansion of Abbot Point.

"We're working very hard at the present time to manage those environmental impacts and to be able to demonstrate to the community, right around Australia and internationally, that the ports are sustainable."

GVK Hancock won approval in June to build a rail corridor linking the Bowen and Galilee basins with Abbot Point.

It is also developing a $6.4 billion project in the Galilee Basin which includes a mine 40km northeast of Alpha, between Emerald and Barcaldine.

Paul Mulder, GVK-Hancock's managing director of coal and infrastructure, is due to address and conference and participate in a panel discussion on Thursday afternoon.

By Stephen Johnson