Military fuel ‘safe in crisis’

THE Defence Department has dismissed suggestions the country’s dependence on imported petrol could lead to fuel shortages and ultimately even affect the flying capabilities of Nowra-based helicopters at HMAS Albatross or those deployed on ships.

A NRMA commissioned report has revealed transport fuel reserves have slumped 16 per cent in less than a year and Australia now imports 91 per cent of its oil and fuel supplies.

The possible closure of the Shell Geelong refinery, which produces specialist aviation fuel types for military and commercial aircraft, would result in a major reduction in Australian production, making the country even more reliant on overseas refineries to be willing to supply liquid fuel for airlines and military forces. 

The Department of Defence was told the F44 fuel necessary for all ship-based helicopters was unlikely to be refined in Australia from mid-2014.

As a result, the Australian Defence Forces might not be able to operate helicopters from naval ships, including new amphibious ships, without the tacit approval of foreign refineries.

A Defence spokesperson said it had sufficient supplies to keep its helicopters in the air.

“We have supplies and supply chains that would support flying operations in a crisis,” the spokesperson said.

“We don’t talk about our reserve capacity for security reasons but we are fine.”

The report by retired Air Vice-Marshal John Blackburn revealed fuel supplies would be lucky to last more than a few days in a crisis, which would then also have an effect on chilled and frozen goods in supermarkets, plus pharma-ceutical supplies for both hospitals and chemists.

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