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Indian gasoline suppliers take advantage of Australia’s limitation in producing own fuel

Indian refiners have stepped up oil products marketing efforts in Australia, and the South Asian fuel suppliers plan to raise their export market share in the country as Australia faces limitations in producing its own fuel following a series of refinery closures.

Australia imported 1.43 million barrels of gasoline from India in October, up 93.1% from September, latest data from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources showed. Australia had received no gasoline cargoes from the South Asian supplier in the same month a year earlier.

Australia’s fast growing dependence on imports for its transport fuel requirements due to the rapid decline in the country’s refining capacity means that Indian suppliers could further ramp up middle distillate sales to the Oceania region, marketing sources at two state-run Indian refiners said.

BP Australia said on Oct. 30 that it plans to shut its 146,000 b/d Kwinana refinery in Western Australia and convert it to a fuel import terminal. Australia’s 120,000 b/d Geelong refinery is also mulling closure, following a $49.4 million loss in the first half of 2020, S&P Global Platts reported previously.

Meanwhile, Ampol, formerly Caltex Australia, had announced in October the start of a “comprehensive review” of its Lytton refinery as a prolonged period of poor refining margins and an uncertain outlook threaten the closure of the 109,000 b/d facility.

Overall, Australia’s imports of gasoline in October rose 7.3% on the month at 3.58 million barrels, reflecting a pick up in driving activity after the easing of movement restrictions that had been put in place to curb the rampant spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The easing was significant. Gasoline demand essentially crumbled during the lockdowns, especially in the high demand centers such as Melbourne and other cities across the country,” a trading source familiar with Singapore-Australia fuel trades said.

Singapore was the second biggest gasoline supplier for Australia in October, sending 841,497 barrels in the month, up 12.6% from September, the data showed.

According to Apple mobility data, driving activity has rebounded to around 1% above baseline levels to date in the fourth quarter, compared with 7.7% below baseline levels in Q3.

Apart from Indian refiners, trading companies based in Singapore, as well as traditional top suppliers including South Korea and China, would compete for the Australian market share, middle distillate marketers at South Korean and Chinese refining and trading companies told Platts.

Market participants also noted that India has come to the fore this year as an important supplier of diesel to Australia, with the South Asian supplier filling in the gaps left behind by disrupted trade flows from Northeast Asian refiners earlier this year due to deep discretionary run cuts.

Australia did not receive inflows of gasoil from India over September, but October figures showed that 796,760 barrels were sent across, with this representing a surge of 84% on the year.
Tepid jet fuel demand

However, Australia’s imports of jet fuel fell 25% month on month in October at 896,300 barrels, underscoring the devastating effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation sector. On a year-on-year comparison, the decline was more significant, down 75.8%.

According to an air passenger market analysis by the International Air Transport Association Dec. 8, traffic in the Asia-Pacific remained muted in October, with no clear rebound seen in Australia.

Meanwhile, according to a report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Dec. 10, tourism economic activity for the financial year 2019-2020 was impacted by bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to all tourism key statistics, like tourism gross domestic product and consumption, falling for the first time in the 16-year published time series.
Source: Platts

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