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Australia's energy problem deepens with liquid fuel shortage 2/10/2017 Chris Uhlmann

Australia’s stockpiles of petrol, diesel and aviation fuel are alarmingly low and in breach of international commitments.

The International Energy Agency confirmed to 9NEWS Australia is currently the only member country not compliant with the IEA's obligation to hold an equivalent of 90 days of net-imports.

The agency's latest estimate is that Australia holds 49 days of supply but the government's count is lower, with the energy minister saying that as of July 2017, Australia has 45.9 IEA-days worth of oil stockholdings.

By comparison the United States has more than a year's worth of stockpiled fuel onshore and the average backup for the other 28 IEA member nations is 309 days.

Ninety percent of the nation’s liquid fuel is imported and the government’s take on the national reserves includes counting tankers in transit. That leaves the country exposed to any disruption to shipping lanes.

Retired Air Vice Marshal John Blackburn was deputy chief of the Air Force and made a detailed study of Australia's fuel security for the NRMA.

He says the 49-day figure is a "guestimate" because rules forcing oil importing companies to report their stockholdings won’t come into force until next year.

"So we don’t know how much fuel there is and where it is," Mr Blackburn said.

"There's no government stock and there’s no mandated minimum level of commercial stocks," he said.

The former military man said the sabre rattling between North Korea and the United States highlights the need for the Government to get serious about securing national fuel stocks.

<p>9NEWS can reveal the crisis is deeper than the government admits, with low levels of stockpiled fuel breaching an international agreement.</p> © Provided by Nine News

9NEWS can reveal the crisis is deeper than the government admits, with low levels of stockpiled fuel breaching an international agreement.

Much of Australia’s oil is sourced through Singapore but a lot of refined fuels come from South Korea and Japan.

"Right now the aviation fuel required for the helicopters on our [Amphibious Assault Ships] comes from one location – South Korea – because we shut down the manufacturing capability for this in Brisbane about a year and a half ago," Mr Blackburn said.

Labor MP David Feeney has long warned of the dangers of becoming too reliant on the just-in-time importation of fuel.

"Our defence forces would not be able to maintain operations for much longer than about three weeks," Mr Feeney said.

"Ninety percent of our fuel is imported, mostly from South East Asia. That's precisely the area that would be affected by a regional crisis."

“Our international oil supply chain is diverse, flexible and robust and mitigates against supply disruption risks as fuel can be sourced from suppliers in other regions,” Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg told 9NEWS.

"The government is committed to returning to full compliance with the IEA stockholding obligation by 2026," Mr Frydenberg said.

Engineers Australia's Neil Greet believes Australia is taking a "she'll be right" approach to a serious problem.

"The gas crisis came on us out of nowhere," he said.

"The electricity crisis came on us out of nowhere. So, yes, 2026 is a long way away."


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