Fly, money, fly. Australian jet fuel import bills skyrocket

One of the biggest dangers is that military conflicts in the Middle East turn into a tanker war.

Marlin Luanda with Russian (!!) Naphtha for Singapore hit by missile and on fire south of Aden 26 Jan 2024

Tanker trackers

What’s going on with shipping?

So it is again time to look at Australian petroleum imports, which depend on Singapore but also other Asian countries.
In the last 12 months to November 2023 (the latest statistics) Australia imported jet fuel to the value of 6.8 bn AU$, a 64% increase over the same period in pre-Covid 2019. Data are from here:

Fig 1: Australian jet fuel imports in AU$

Fig 2: International jet fuel prices Jan 2016 – Jan 2024

Fig 3: Australian jet fuel imports and refinery production

Around 86% of jet fuel is imported. And the dependency of jet fuel from the last 2 Australian refineries on imported crude is 87%.

Fig 4: The steady decline of domestic fuel production due to refinery closures

13/4/2011 Australia’s fuel import vulnerability increases as Sydney’s Clyde refinery is closing

27/7/2012 After Sydney’s refinery closure: Caltex to import fuel from Chevron’s shrinking sales

9/4/2014 Why the closure of BP’s Brisbane Bulwer refinery reduces Australia’s energy security

14/11/2020 Australia’s BP Kwinana refinery closure: peak oil context

Remaining refineries:
Viva in Geelong (120 kb/d)
and Ampol in Lytton (109 kb/d)

Fig 5: Australian jet fuel imports by country (12 month moving average)

Fig 6: Monthly jet fuel imports since Jan 2022

Let’s have a closer look at some of the countries from where jet fuels are imported.


Fig 7: Australian jet fuel imports from China

Fig 8: China’s crude imports by country 2017 – Apr 2023

Source: Kpler, May 2023
China’s crude oil production started to peak in 2015. About half of Chinese crude imports are from the Middle East.

China’s Economic Stake in the Middle East: Its Thirst for Oil
Oct 11, 2023
China is the largest oil importer by far from Saudi Arabia and from Iran, highlighting the risk it faces if the war in Israel and Gaza were to broaden.

Exclusive: Iran’s oil trade with China stalls as Tehran demands higher prices
8 Jan 2024
SINGAPORE, Jan 5 (Reuters) – China’s oil trade with Iran has stalled as Tehran withholds shipments and demands higher prices from its top client, tightening cheap supply for the world’s biggest crude importer, refinery and trade sources said.
The cutback in Iranian oil, which makes up some 10% of China’s crude imports and hit a record in October, could support global prices and squeeze profits at Chinese refiners.
The abrupt move, which one industry executive called a “default”, could also represent the backfiring of an October U.S. waiver on sanctions of Venezuelan oil, which diverted shipments from the South American producer to the U.S. and India, elevating prices for China as shipments dwindled.

South Korea

Fig 9: Australian jet fuel imports from South Korea

Fig 10: South Korean crude imports by country

In the last 2 years, South Korea’s dependency on the Middle East was 70%.

Fig 11: South Korean refinery output


Australians think that fuels are mainly imported from Singapore and that therefore there is no problem. So let’s have a look at Singapore’s oil hub.

Fig 12: Singapore oil imports from 2 different sources of data

Data from Singapore’s Energy Market Authority are here:

BP Stat. Review’s data from the inter area movements are slightly different but show the same trend.
Crude and product imports peaked in 2017, mainly because of the peak in product imports.
What matters here of course are Singapore’s exports which peaked in 2017:

Fig 13: Singapore’s petroleum product exports

The peak was mainly caused by fuel oil but jet fuel exports also had a peak in 2017.

Fig 14: Singapore jet fuel imports and exports

We can clearly see that both imports and exports peaked around the oil price shock year of 2008 with smaller peaks in 2017.

Fig 15: AU jet fuel imports compared to Singapore jet fuel exports

Australia tries a business as usual import path thereby bumping into Singapore’s declining trend.

This change is quite important and concerning because rather short and secure supply chains from Singapore are moving further north through the contested South China Sea, the sea lanes around Taiwan and to South Korea under threat from missile attacks. 30% of imports depend on CCP decisions.


Fig 16: Australia jet fuel import dependencies by country

Government action

So what is the government doing to reduce Australia’s dependency on jet fuel imports? The opposite of what you expect. A 2nd Sydney airport is under construction with additional demand for jet fuel.

Fig 17: Estimate of jet fuel demand for the new Western Sydney Airport by Deloitte

For 2031 this would be 48 ML per month or an increase of Australia’s total jet fuel imports of around 10%. The estimate for 2052 is academic (+245 ML per month). No one calculated where the jet fuel imports will come from. Happy flying.