Where does Australia’s fuel come from?

Of all refined petroleum products sold in Australia in 2021/22, more than 70 per cent was imported as already refined petroleum products, with the remainder derived from crude oil mostly imported from overseas, and refined in Australia.

You may be surprised to learn that only a small percentage of crude oil imported into Australia comes from the Middle East.

Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam between them make up more than half of our imported crude oil (58% in the 2021/22 financial year).

Local refineries

Two of the four oil refineries remaining in operation in Australia ceased their refining activities in 2021 – these comprised the ExxonMobil’s refinery in Melbourne, and BP’s plant in Kwinana.

These are both being converted into import terminals for refined product.

The two refineries remaining in operation are the Ampol refinery at Lytton, Queensland and the Viva refinery in Geelong, Victoria.

Countries from which Australia imports the most crude oil (FY2021/22)

  1. Malaysia – 44%
  2. Brunei Darussalum – 14%
  3. Vietnam 7%
  4. USA – 7%
  5. Libya – 5%

Top 10 countries with the most expensive petrol (as at January-March 2022)

Premium unleaded petrol per litre, AUD*
Netherlands $3.27
Denmark $3.14
Finland $3.13
Norway $3.12
Israel $2.96
Greece $2.94
Sweden $2.92
Germany $2.91
Italy $2.90
Portugal $2.82

Countries with the least expensive petrol

Premium unleaded petrol per litre, AUD*
United States $1.51
Turkey $1.59
Turkey $1.28
Costa Rica $1.70
Chile $1.77
Canada $1.94
Australia $1.97
Poland $1.99
Hungary $2.03
Slovenia $2.17
Korea $2.28

Regular unleaded price comparison

Per litre, AUD*
Colombia $0.87
United States $1.34
Costa Rica $1.66
Chile $1.73
Canada $1.76
Australia $1.82
Korea $2.02
Japan $2.03
Austria $2.40
New Zealand $2.49

Top 10 countries with the most expensive diesel

Per litre, AUD*
Sweden $3.36
Finland $3.08
Israel $3.07
Norway $3.01
Switzerland $2.92
Netherlands $2.85
Belgium $2.82
Germany $2.82
Italy $2.76
France $2.74

Top 10 countries with the least expensive diesel

Per litre, AUD*
Colombia $0.85
Chile $1.39
United States $1.57
Turkey $1.67
Japan $1.79
Australia $1.82
Korea $1.84
Canada $1.85
New Zealand $1.85
Hungary $2.07

*Apart from the 91 RON unleaded price comparison, our international petrol price comparisons use premium unleaded petrol as many countries do not have the octane equivalent of Australia’s regular unleaded petrol. Prices are in AUD including taxes. March quarter 2022, OECD. Those countries which do sell sub-95 RON petrol in the OECD are listed in the Regular 91 RON unleaded price comparison. Source: Australian Petroleum Statistics, June 2022. Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

Fuel use in WA

  • 91 RON – 42%
  • 95 RON – 7%
  • 98 RON – 8%
  • Diesel – 43%

Australia's poor fuel quality

Australia is falling well behind other nations in fuel quality rankings. The quality of Australian petrol is currently ranked 89th in the world behind Argentina (88th), Bosnia and Herzegovina (87th), Guyana (86th), Algeria (85th), Iraq (84th) and Mexico (83rd). Of all OECD countries, Australia allows the lowest quality fuel.

Most countries that Australia imports refined automotive petroleum from have an existing minimum fuel specification for sulfur of 10ppm. However in Australia, the allowable sulfur content in unleaded petrol is up to 150ppm - 15 times the ‘international standard’. Earlier this year, the government brought forward the introduction of improved petrol quality standards from 1 July 2027 to 15 December 2024 for all grades of petrol, aligning Australia with international standards. Diesel fuel in Australia has met maximum allowable 10ppm sulfur specifications since January 2009.

When high sulfur fuel is burnt in car engines, the exhaust is detrimental to human health and the environment, and reduces the ability of vehicles to keep their total exhaust emissions down. When emitted from vehicles in their exhausts, sulfur can bind with other compounds in the atmosphere to form small toxic particles and clusters that create visible smog, and easily dissolves in water. When large amounts of sulfur mix with water in the atmosphere, it contributes to acid rain.

RELATED: How fuel pricing works in WA »

BP Kwinana closure

For some, the announcement by BP in October 2020 that it would close its refinery in Kwinana by mid-2021 and then convert it to an import terminal was a surprise.

However, considering the huge, export-focused oil refineries that had been coming on stream in Asia and the Middle East, the efficiencies of these in comparison to the Kwinana refinery had become increasingly obvious.


For example, the giant Uslan refinery in South Korea, from where Australia received some of its refined fuel, was about seven times bigger in capacity than BP’s Kwinana refinery was when it was operating.

BP itself said low margins and an oversupply in the local market combined to make the Kwinana refinery no longer economically viable.

ExxonMobil offered similar reasons in February 2021 when it announced the closure of its refinery in Altona, Melbourne, a move that will see just two refineries left operating in Australia by the end of 2021: Ampol’s Lytton plant in Brisbane, and Viva Energy’s Geelong refinery.

One silver lining is that the closure of the BP Kwinana refinery is likely to result in a noticeable reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions from the refinery itself.

Though the BP Kwinana refinery shutdown was still a major blow for those families affected by the loss of 590 jobs.

Last updated: September 2022