Cost of living: Why are petrol prices in Austria still so high?

As people set off on summer holidays, motorists are noticing a big difference in the price of petrol in neighbouring countries. Here’s why fuel is so expensive in Austria.

Cost of living: Why are petrol prices in Austria still so high?
Petrol and diesel prices are remaining stubbornly high in Austria. Photo: Engin Akyurt via Pexels.

For anyone running a car right now, it will come as no surprise that fuel prices in Austria are currently higher than the EU average.

An analysis of data in the weekly oil bulletin by the European Commission shows that the cost of diesel in Austria is currently 5.7 percent higher than other EU states, and petrol (or Super, as it is known in Austria) is 5.1 percent more expensive.

This puts Austria as more expensive than the EU average for the first time in a decade when it comes to filling up a car.

The research was carried out by Der Standard and the prices analysed include all taxes and duties.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why are fuel prices increasing faster in Austria than elsewhere in the EU?

Up until March of this year, fuel costs in Austria had remained affordable and the Alpine Republic was usually in the lower third of EU countries when it came to petrol and diesel prices. 

So what happened? And why are fuel prices in Austria now higher than other EU countries?

Price caps and a damaged oil refinery

According to the Der Standard report, the higher cost of fuel in Austria comes down to two elements: neighbouring countries introducing price caps or lowering taxes, and a damaged oil refinery in Lower Austria.

For example, the German government has temporarily lowered taxes on petrol and diesel, which means it now costs five to 15 percent less to fill up a tank in Germany than in Austria.

In Italy, the government recently extended a 30 cent discount on fuel for consumers, and in Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia there are price caps in place.

READ ALSO: ‘Be mindful of energy and food waste’: How to beat inflation in Austria

Then there was the accident at Austria’s Schwechat OMV oil refinery in June. The facility has since been operating under a limited capacity until it can be repaired in the autumn, which has further impacted Austrian fuel prices. 

At the time of writing, The Local checked fuel prices at petrol stations across the country via the ÖAMTC app.

In Vienna, at the Turmöl gas station on Margaratenstrasse, petrol was €1.984 a litre and diesel was €1.974.

Prices in Innsbruck at the Shell station on Brenner Strasse were €1.999 for diesel and petrol. And in Graz, fuel prices at the F. Leitner on Elisabethinergasse were €1.952 for both diesel and petrol.

To compare, petrol prices at Bavaria Petrol on Zehentbauernstrasse in Munich, Germany, were €1.749 and diesel was €1.959, according to the ADAC. In Berlin, it’s even cheaper with petrol at STAR on Berliner Allee for €1.629 a litre and diesel at €1.819.

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ENERGY CRISIS: Will Austria have enough gas for winter?

In recent months, there have been fears that Austria will not have enough gas for the winter season. The good news is that gas storage facilities are filling up, but by how much? Here's an update.

ENERGY CRISIS: Will Austria have enough gas for winter?

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February and the EU imposed sanctions on the Kremlin, there have been concerns in Austria about the domestic energy supply.

The biggest worry is that Austria will not have enough gas for the coming heating season, which could quickly become a crisis when coupled with skyrocketing energy prices.

On Tuesday (August 16th), the European Aggregated Gas Storage Inventory confirmed that Austria’s gas storage capacity is now 60 percent full. This is already a significant improvement from early April, when reserves were just over 10 percent full.

Austria’s goal is to reach 80 percent capacity by November 1st in order to have a safety reserve. 

READ ALSO: Where are energy prices going up (again) in Austria?

But the Wiener Zeitung reports that there are questions over where the gas has come from as Gazprom has reduced deliveries to Austria’s OMV (the partially-state owned energy company) by two thirds.

Where is the gas coming from?

Christoph Dolna-Gruber, an energy advisor at the Austrian Energy Agency, said the origin of the gas “is not explicitly known”.

For example, from October 2022 to September 2023, OMV has secured additional natural gas supplies of 40 TWh from Norway and the Netherlands, reports the Wiener Zeitung.

The Austrian Federal Government has also secured 20 TWh of gas from two tenders, of which 8.5 TWh has been confirmed by the Ministry of the Environment to be from non-Russian sources.

However, the gas storage operators do not publish data on customers and contractual partners, so the origin is not in the public domain.

The extra 20 TWh of gas will be owned by the state but it is still unclear how it will be “handled” (e.g. for domestic use or for redistribution outside of Austria).

FOR MEMBERS: Why (and when) double-digit inflation is set to hit Austria

How much gas can Austria store?

The capacity of Austria’s gas storage facilities is 95.5 terawatt hours (TWh) or 8.6 billion cubic metres. The gas is stored underground in depleted natural gas reservoirs at a depth of between 500 and 2,300 metres.

Austria’s gas storage facilities are located in Haidach, Aigelsbrunn, Auerbach (the facility is known as 7-Fields), Puchkirchen, Haag, Tallesbrunn and Schönkirchen. All of the facilities are in Salzburg or Lower Austria.

OMV manages 26 percent (25.3 TWh) of Austria’s natural gas storage volume and the rest is divided between RAG, Uniper Energy and Astora.

The Haidach storage facility was previously managed by Gazprom and Astora, but the agreement with Gazprom came to an end earlier this month after Gazprom stopped making deliveries.

Since August 1st, Haidach has been managed by Astora and RAG. 

READ ALSO: Vienna forced to dim street lighting and cancel some Christmas illuminations

How much does Austria rely on Russian gas?

Prior to the war, Austria relied on Russia for 80 percent of its total gas consumption. This has reduced in recent months but Austria is still heavily dependent on Russia for its gas supply.

And following Gazprom’s announcement on Tuesday that gas prices could rise by up to 60 percent in the coming months for European customers, Austrian residents should expect further increases to their gas bills this winter.