Australia’s oil stock coverage on record low

In prime time evening news of the Australian public broadcaster ABC TV, on 21 June 2017, the business presenter Alan Kohler tried to explain a fall in oil prices by “record oil inventories around the world”

Well, let’s go around the world on a map and stay where we are, in Australia. In google, type in the search word “Australian Petroleum Statistics” and you get this website:

Click on the latest issue and then on the download PDF file, in this case April 2017

Search for the word “stocks” and that brings you to tables 6 and 7

Table 7 End of month stocks of petroleum, consumption cover

In the last column “IEA days of net imports coverage it is 89.5 days for 2010/11 and 55.2 days for 2015/17. Go to the bottom of the column and it’s 50.5 days. The year-on-year decline is 3.1%. That doesn’t look like a record now. If anything, it’s a record low. Let’s put that into a graph:

Australia_IEA_days_coverage_2010-Apr2017Fig 1: Australia’s net imports coverage in days as defined by IEA

Australia is a member of the IEA (International Energy Agency)

Turnbull_Birol_Feb2017Fig 2: Australian Prime Minster shaking hands with IEA’s Fatih Birol, Feb 2017

We check the coverage on the IEA website and find 48 days for March

Fig 3: Australia in comparison with other countries

But this number of 50 days is just a calculated average of all oils and fuels. In terms of consumption cover for crude oil and the most important fuels the numbers are much lower as shown in the following graphs.

Australia_crude_stock_consumption_cover_2010-Apr2017Fig 4: Australian crude oil stocks between 20 and 30 days

Australia_petrol_stock_consumption_cover_2010-Apr2017Fig 5: Australian petrol stocks between 15 and 27 days


Fig 5: Australian diesel stocks between 10 and 20 days

Australia_jet_fuel_stock_consumption_cover_2010-Apr2017Fig 6: Australian jet fuel stocks between 15 and 25 days

So what actually is on record high?

Fig 7: Australia’s oil production, consumption and net imports

Yes, you guessed it. With a long term decline of oil production since the peak in 2000 it’s net oil imports which are on a record high (677 kb/d) in 2016, having increased by an average of 5.4% pa over the last 5 years

Fact check assessment

Let’s not be too harsh with a journo who can present interesting graphs but gets it consistently wrong on oil:

Not the full story

Where is Australia going?

In terms of oil stocks, where is Australia going? On 25/6/2015 a Senate Committee on

Australia’s transport energy resilience and sustainability

delivered its final report. I had participated in the hearings and presented submission #39.

2 years down the track, no action was taken. One reason for this is that there is no public pressure on this issue. And there is no pressure because the public is not properly informed. Not by the public broadcaster. So Australia is going nowhere. It is turning in circles. We have to wait until there are fuel shortages. Just like we had to wait for gas shortages on the east coast to bring government into action on domestic gas. Of course now it is too late. With oil it will just be the same.


Thank you, Alan, for giving us the opportunity to debunk some of the misleading information we are getting from ABC TV.

Related posts:

14/4/2017    Australia more vulnerable than ever to fuel import disruptions

27/9/2016    ABC TV a true believer in US shale oil supremacy

12/1/2016    No glut in Australian petroleum inventories


IEA_oil_stock_level_in_days_of_net_importsFig 8: IEA’s definitions of stock holding requirements