Australian fuel import bill going sky-high

In March 2022 Australia’s petroleum product imports have reached almost AU$ 4 bn per month, an increase of 70% compared to December 2019.

Fig 1: Petroleum product imports by volume (black lines) and value (brown line)

Fig 2: Australian dollar to US$ exchange rate

The Australian Dollar was also around 0.7 US$ in December 2019, just like in May 2022 so it was not the exchange rate which drove up the bill in that period. It is the closure of Australian refineries (caused by peak oil of international oil companies), the oil price and the competition for fuels on the Asian market.

The Morrison government’s election-opportunistic cut of fuel excise duty by 50% until Sep 2022 will of course not reduce this import burden on the balance of payments. Fuel imports are now 12% of goods and services imports:

Fig 3: Goods and services debits (imports)

Fig 4: Diesel imports by volume and value

Fig 5: Diesel imports by country

Australia’s dependency on China and a brand-new Chinese refinery in Brunei in the last years is clearly visible.

Fig 6: Monthly diesel imports

Imports change from month to month depending on the arrival of tankers. Diesel from China has been replaced by Diesel from India.

Fig 7: Petrol imports by value and volume

Fig 8: Petrol imports by country. Singapore now dominates

Fig 9: Jet fuel imports by value and volume

If jet fuel imports go back to their pre-Covid levels of, say, 600 ML/month the jet fuel import bill will double to A$ 700/month.

Conclusion: Australia must reduce its thirst for transport fuels. No new projects should be started which increase fuel consumption.

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