Melbourne Airport hit by fuel shortage

written by australianaviation.com.au | January 22, 2015
An aerial shot of Tullamarine. (Melbourne Airport)
An aerial shot of Tullamarine. (Melbourne Airport)

Fuel providers at Melbourne Airport are attempting to bring in extra supplies in a bid to maintain normal operations there after a delayed shipment of jet fuel raised the prospect of fuel rationing at Australia’s second busiest airport.

The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA) says fuel may have to be rationed at Tullamarine after the National Operating Committee on Jet Fuel Supply Assurance (NOC) changed the fuel supply status in Melbourne to a “black traffic light”, indicating the need to ration fuel.

BARA, which represents 29 international airlines that fly into and out of Australia, says the status was changed from green to black on Wednesday night, giving airlines little notice to respond to the supply change.

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“Affected airlines will do all they can to minimise disruptions to the travelling public. But the primary responsibility lies with the fuel suppliers themselves,” BARA executive director Barry Abrams said in a statement on Thursday.

BP, Caltex, ExxonMobil and Shell were joint-venture partners in the Joint User Hydrant Installation (JUHI), which owns and manages the fuel depot and hydrant infrastructure at Melbourne Airport.

ExxonMobil operates the facility.

Caltex, which is understood to supply about 11 per cent of the fuel at Melbourne Airport including to Qantas and Air New Zealand, said it was working “minimise any potential for operational impacts on flights to and from the city” ahead of the delayed shipment of fuel arriving on Friday.

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“In the interim, additional supplies are being brought in by truck and via pipeline transfers to maintain normal airport operations,” Caltex said in a statement.

ExxonMobil said it was working with industry partners and aviation customers to manage the jet fuel supply at Melbourne Airport and minimise any potential disruption to flights.

“At this stage, we do not expect the supply of jet fuel to ExxonMobil customers in Melbourne to be impacted,” ExxonMobil spokesperson Jessica Bodon said in an emailed statement.

“ExxonMobil is also working to support other industry partners in minimising any disruption to their customers.”

BP Australia spokesperson Elyse Gatt said BP was operating normally at Melbourne Airport.

Shell Aviation Australia declined to offer any comment when contacted.

Abrams said this situation had been “foreseeable for some time”, adding that an unreliable supply of jet fuel was damaging to the industry.

He said supply chain constraints and a lack of effective competition among jet fuel suppliers had stymied industry performance and impeded growth.

“BARA and individual members have privately raised concerns over the reliability of jet fuel supplies to Melbourne Airport with industry stakeholders over the course of last year,” Abrams said.

“Our member airlines are particularly concerned that fuel rationing could potentially disrupt airline schedules and the travel plans of customers during the holiday period.”

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7 Comments

  • Mark

    says:

    Unfortunately this kind of shortage is likely to become more commonplace. Many out there would not know that every drop of out AVTUR stocks is imported from overseas…mostly Singapore. With many of the oil companies closing their Australian refineries we will become increasingly dependent on imported refined products. And we fall well below international standards for storage of reserve stocks too.
    If our tankers are disrupted in any way, airlines will be among the first industries to suffer shortages of fuel. Sadly the oil companies don’t care. It’s al about money.

  • The question is whether this is not hiding the problem of the oil industry not making enough profits after the oil price has dropped.

  • Phil Fine

    says:

    Ironic, at a time when oil prices have plunged!

  • Jeff Atkinson

    says:

    With the fuel companies leaving the country in the lurch per say,That the government should have a policy in place .That if the fuel companies want to keep supply in this country that if flights are compromised in any unnatural event.That they pay 5..0 million per day to the government for interruption compensation.See who doesn’t let this happen again..

  • Warwick Etheridge

    says:

    We seem content in this country to allow ourselves to forget the hard lessons learnt by our forebears who lived through World War Two which saw this country unable to secure itself from the apparent threat of Japanese invasion without appealing to the Americans for help. Thank what ever god you choose to believe in that they did come to our aid or we would have been stuffed.

    The fact that we have compounded the stupidity of allowing our manufacturing base to be emasculated in no small way through the mismanagement of the negotiation of various so called “free trade” agreements by successive governments in Canberra, by then allowing the situation to develop in Australia where we can be cut off very quickly and effectively from a secure supply of fuel, not just avgas but various fuels used in the automotive and transport fields, through not refining it here and not having an adequate storage system as backup is just …… Well, it is just plain dumb.

    What will it take for this country to wake up??

  • Chris

    says:

    Australia needs a Strategic Petroleum Reserve like the USA established in the Gulf of Mexico in late 1975 following the 1973/4 oil embargoes imposed by OPEC. We need our own refining facilities to work along with the SPR. Our Sea Lines of Communication could easily be interdicted particularly around Singapore from where most of our POL is imported via Refined Product Tankers. Given the low crude prices caused by Saudi Arabia exporting it would be the ideal time for the government to buy it.. Saudi Arabia is drawing on its estimated USA$900B in cash reserves to get at arch enemies Iran and Russia and assist the USA’s economic war against Venezuala. As a Logistician I will leave the storage location selection to Geologists / Hydraulogists but it needs to to near a deep port to accept OBO tankers and a pipeline to the refinery. The USA SPR is nearly 700M barrels and their President’s have only authorised access 3 times. What better investments could the Future Funds and Industry Super Schemes make? Buy cheap now, sell dear when supply cannot meet demand.

  • Luke

    says:

    I’ve worked on coastal ships carrying large volumes of JetA1. I’ve seen large volumes of the product deemed off spec post transit and have to be returned to a local refinery to be re-batched. Just wait until we receive a ship load of several thousand tonnes of JetA1 from Singapore that’s off spec and has to be sent all the way back to Asai to be re-batched because there’s no local refinery. Won’t be long.
    A load of imported JetA1 arrived in Kurnell in recent months and it was off spec. Luckily the refinery hadn’t been completely moth balled at that stage and they were able to clean it up.

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