News Wrap

IN TODAY'S News Wrap: Shell refinery fire; NSW gas shortage debate rages on; and Mobil brand to return to 7-Eleven service stations.

Shell's German refinery fire

Firefighters put out a blaze at Shell's Rheinland refinery in Cologne yesterday afternoon in a little more than an hour, with no injuries or dangerous emissions reported.

According to various media, the fire started in a chemical tank of the solvent toluene.

The oil refinery reportedly has production capacity of 195,000 barrels per day.

NSW gas fears linger

The anti-fraccing New South Wales government remains under media pressure to encourage more exploration of the state's gas resources.

While Envestra CEO Ian Little told The Australian that there were ample gas reserves held by BHP Billiton and ExxonMobil in Victoria's Bass Strait, the supply route to NSW is under question.

"Looking on an annual aggregates basis there is no evident problem but when you unpack the seasonal variations, the winter months are simply going to be difficult to supply," AGL Energy chief economist Paul Simshauser reportedly said.

"There are limits on how much gas you can ship into NSW."

A Santos spokesman told the newspaper that NSW produced less than 5% of the gas it consumed each year.

"There is no doubt that NSW is facing a looming gas shortage and it urgently needs to secure future sources of supply for both business and households," the spokesman said.

"The best way to put downward pressure on gas prices is to develop NSW's gas resources."

Mobil brand to return to petrol pumps

While there was press speculation this week that Shell and BP might exit Australia's competitive service station arena, ExxonMobil and 7-Eleven recently agreed to help return the Mobil brand to the Australian east coast this year.

The jointly announced "long-term deal" comes after ExxonMobil sold 300 Mobil outlets to 7-Eleven in 2010, with the Australian Financial Review hinting the move was motivated by the growing premium-priced petrol market.

"Some speculated the century-old Mobil brand may be more attractive to consumers seeking quality than 7-Eleven, better known for ‘slurpies' and late-night fast food," the newspaper reported.

7-Eleven Australia CEO Warren Wilmot also hinted that the Mobil brand might lift petrol profits.

"Being able to communicate we sell quality Mobil fuel products will ensure we can provide an outstanding offer to our customers," he said.