A CRITICAL shortage of diesel threatening to engulf Victorian industries shows signs of easing as a damaged refinery in Geelong resumes production.
Massive ocean tankers laden with diesel have been redirected to local ports as supplies evaporate at petrol stations in the south-west and across the state.
Other outlets were forced to ration their supplies by placing a cap on purchases.
Shell Australia stepped up production over the weekend at the refinery, which is now operating at 125 per cent of normal volume. But it could still be days before the diesel begins flowing through bowsers again.
A BP spokesman said almost all of its Victorian service stations had run out of diesel.
Both companies have organised extra trucks and ships to bring diesel in from interstate.
“If this happens the situation might begin to ease next week, but re-stocking our network to normal levels could take weeks to complete,” the BP spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the RACV is urging motorists not to panic, saying filling up for the sake of it could add to the problem.
“Our advice to motorists is to be patient and not panic,” RACV vehicle engineering manager Michael Case said.
“Supplies will be restored but it may take a few days.”
Opportunistic drivers might still be able to locate diesel if they called ahead to petrol stations before driving there, he said.
The diesel drought has led some to question the effects of an extended shortage.
Moyne Shire mayor Jim Doukas warned of potentially “catastrophic” consequences if the situation lasted for weeks, with Australia reliant on only a handful of refineries.
“What would have happened if there had been a fire at the refinery and the shortage lasted months?” he asked.
The mayor said the government needed to invest in rail infrastructure to reduce the nation’s reliance on fuel-intensive road freight.
Warrnambool Bus Lines manager Sam Lucas said operations had been unaffected by the shortage because the company held a three-week supply of diesel.
State Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan said this week that diesel supplies to all vital services were secure.