Interview with Neil Breen, 4BC

Neil Breen
AdBlue, diesel fuel

NEIL BREEN: If you're not a long-distance truck driver who uses a diesel truck, or you've got a car, a diesel car that needs AdBlue, you've probably never heard of the product. So over the summer, when you're hearing stories about Australia had an AdBlue shortage, you would have been wondering what it was. Well, AdBlue, it's a diesel exhaust fluid used in vehicles with selective catalytic reduction technology. It reduces harmful gases being released into the atmosphere. My car needs AdBlue. I've got a Ford Everest. I like driving it on the beach. It's a diesel car and it needs AdBlue and what happened was the Chinese didn't help us and there was a shortage of AdBlue. So the Federal Government acted and it looks as though they've solved the crisis. I've got the Federal Energy Minister on the line, Angus Taylor. He joins me. Good morning, Minister.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good morning, Neil. Good to be with you.

NEIL BREEN: Okay, so Incitec Pivot is a fertiliser manufacturer and it's ramped up this production of AdBlue by about 800 per cent. Is the crisis over?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we certainly have it in hand. We've got Incitec now producing 3 million litres a week, so that's 75 per cent of the Australian market and they continue to ramp up their production. So that puts us in a position where we've got an enormous amount of new supply coming into the market alleviating some of those pressures we had. It's been a real challenge getting that out into the local sites. We've got a B-double leaving Brisbane every 20 minutes from Incitec’s facilities to get around Australia. Some of it going by train and most of it going by truck and it's getting out into those local sites, so we're in a very strong position. We're staying right on it. If we lost supply of AdBlue, we'd lose trucks on the road and many commuters. I have a Ford Everest, too. Neil, so -

NEIL BREEN: Good car. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: So you and I'd be off the road. It's a good car. So I'm very familiar with the issues, but we are in a strong position. Fantastic work that's been done by the workforce at Incitec in Brisbane to get this production up. It's not a huge amount of urea, which is the input to it that we use for this purpose. We use far more for agricultural fertiliser, but it's a very specialised sort of urea and the workforce had to get to that specification. We've done it and production, as I say, 75 per cent of national demand now being made in Brisbane.

NEIL BREEN: Yeah, so this dedicated AdBlue distribution facility in Brisbane, you're loading the equivalent of three B-double trucks an hour and sending it out. That's sort of gone from zero to nothing, good for employment here, too. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah and look, that's been a big part of the challenge. There are two challenges we've had to meet here. One is to get the total production up to meet overall demand to 4 million litres a week. We're at 3 million now, but we've also got other sources of supply and the second thing is to get it out to those local sites and of course this is that people buy AdBlue out in petrol stations and other outlets all around Australia. So that's been a big challenge. We worked hard over the Christmas/New Year period and we've been able to get those B-doubles and other sources of transport out every 20 minutes so it's a pretty extraordinary operation that we've been able to ramp up in a very short period of time. These are the realities we deal with, with supply chains around the world that are challenged in this way but it's been a phenomenal effort.

NEIL BREEN: And I think one of the things is to gain our independence back rather than being reliant on China, which can hold us to ransom, if you like, whenever they want.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, that's right. I mean, the source of this ultimately was very high gas prices around the world. We've been spared from that largely in Australia, but throughout Europe, Asia, North America, we've seen this huge escalation in gas prices which is the main input to make your urea and add blue and so countries like China have just refused to export. They're keeping all of it to themselves to try and contain their costs and this is the outcome we've seen. But as I say, phenomenal effort by great Aussie ingenuity to solve this one and I'm very proud of the work that's been done. 

NEIL BREEN: Okay. Angus Taylor, Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions reduction. Thanks for your time this morning.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks Neil.