Sydney drivers are being advised to fill up their tanks now ahead of an expensive fuel cycle, as pump prices in Australia are hit by the global ripples of a cyber-attack on a major US fuel pipeline operator and conflict in the Middle East.

Prices at the pump in Australia’s major cities have bumped up an average of 3c to 141.2c a litre over the previous week after hackers froze Colonial Pipeline.

This key American fuel pipeline, which runs from the Gulf coast to the Atlantic north-east, was subject to a ransomware attack, forcing the US government to declare a state of emergency.

The pipeline carries around 2.5m barrels of refined fuel product a day, accounting for 45% of the east coast’s supply. The cyber-attack sparked panic buying in parts of the US, which saw American prices at the pump jump.

In response to the debacle, Brent crude prices jumped 2.2% to $US69.29 a barrel. While prices have already pulled back after the reopening of the Colonial Pipeline on Thursday, after the company paid the $5m ransom for the 100 gigabytes of data held hostage, markets were carefully watching whether conflict in Gaza would restrict oil supply.

Australia’s regional market for petroleum is Asia Pacific, the trading centre of which is located in Singapore.

Changes in Singapore prices can take around two weeks to work their way through the supply chain to Australian cities and even longer to reach regional areas, according to the Australian Institute of Petroleum. And each capital city has a unique petrol cycle where petrol retailers deliberately adjust prices.

Melbourne, which has just entered the expensive phase of the fuel cycle, has seen a 7.5%, or 11c, price rise over this week to 157.7c a litre, according to data by MotorMouth.

Sydney drivers have enjoyed cheaper unleaded pump prices with the retail discounting cycle a fortnight old, but are preparing to head into their monthly uptick.

Sydney prices were up 1% over the week to $134.8c a litre on average. The previous high Sydney drivers paid was 156.4c a litre on 15 April.

Brisbane motorists were breathing a sigh of relief as prices came down after a steep price rise. This week, petrol prices in south-east Queensland fell 8.3c, or 5.3%, to 149.7c a litre.

Economists often tie petrol prices to consumer spending, a key pillar of Australia’s current economic strength.

“One obstacle to increased spending is ongoing high petrol prices,” Craig James, the chief economist at Commonwealth Bank, said.

“Filling up the car with petrol is the single biggest weekly purchase for most households.”

Perth regularly experiences a sharp price adjustment. This week’s prices spiked 21c, or 17%, to 150.6c a litre.

Adelaide, Canberra, Darwin and Hobart all recorded flat petrol price changes for the week.

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