HRL salvage mission

A buyer is being sought for the Energy Brix power station and briquette factory to ensure the future of the troubled Morwell site after its owner HRL Ltd went into voluntary administration last week.

About 30 Latrobe Valley workers employed by HRL and Vemco Group now face an uncertain future as administrator PPB Advisory tries to sell the company’s entities, including the almost 60 year-old Energy Brix site which has been effectively closed since August last year.

The State Government has offered assistance to affected employees through the Business in Transition training and support program.

PPB Advisory will first assess the demand for briquettes produced at Energy Brix, along with the viability of developing an alternative steam production technology to supply the briquette factory.

If a buyer cannot be found the site is expected to be demolished and rehabilitated, for which a $27 million State Government clean-up package exists.

“We will see if there’s someone who wants to take over the business but if that’s not the case we will look at the contingency plan,” Mr Longley said.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Lisa Neville said the EPA would work with the administrator through the rehabilitation process.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union last week called for jobs to be created for Latrobe Valley workers if the site was demolished.

“As far as the viability of the structures and operations, this does look like the end of the road,” CFMEU mining and energy division organiser Duncan MacGregor said.

“Hopefully it’s not but having said that, if it does occur that there are no buyers, hopefully something is done in the recovery of the site to provide jobs and I’d ask for the jobs to be given to people in the Valley where this is very sorely needed.”

HRL Ltd had hoped to find a commercially viable way to supply the briquette factory with an alternative steam supply after it closed down.

But Mr Longley said the company had lost money trying to develop that technology.

“A fair bit of work and money has been spent to tap into the development of new technology to be able to operate again (through alternative steam production), but that side hasn’t been viable,” he said.

Had it been successful, it was expected to create about 30 direct operational jobs.

HRL Ltd currently employs about 30 workers in the Latrobe Valley including 25 at Energy Brix and HRL Technology, and five more through its Vemco Group in Traralgon.

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said it had been a difficult day for the company.

“Our thoughts are with the employees and their families,” she said.

“The government has been in contact with the company, administrator and union representing the workers.”