Release Date: 26 July, 2021

The vulnerable points in South Africa’s fuel supply chain

The glaring failure by authorities to secure an area notorious for attacks on trucks prompts questions about, at best, utter ineptitude, or at worst, complicity

Oil companies and governments are usually awake to the strategic role played by liquid fuels and have special measures to protect supply and logistics. Much of South Africa’s measures are apartheid era hangovers that have eroded with time. Periodic risk assessments have been done, but many assumed a calm society. It seems there was inadequate attention given to the risks imposed by a broken social compact.

So where do the biggest risks lie?

South Africa has always been heavily dependent on imported fuel. Its synthetic fuel (from coal) capability – developed during the apartheid era to overcome the oil sanctions imposed by the United Nations – accounts for the balance.

But the risk to imports seems low. The world is awash with oil and refined products. This is due to the slump in demand triggered by lockdowns to contain the spread of Covid-19. There seems little risk of global shortages, apart from the usual refinery fires and supply disruptions.

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