Construction on Fuel Storage Facility in Northern Territory to Service U.S. Defence Operations Begins

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at
January 18, 2022Updated: January 18, 2022

Preliminary works have begun to construct the Northern Territory’s (NT) largest fuel storage facility, which will play a key role in U.S. defence operations in the region.

According to an NT Government media release on Tuesday, the facility will be located at East Arm in Darwin and hold up to 300 million litres (approx. 80 million gallons) of fuel.

At the cost of $270 million (US$194.1 million), the infrastructure is to be used for the transfer, management, and storage of military specification jet fuels.

In September 2021, the U.S. Government awarded Crowley, a U.S.-based company providing global energy and logistics services, the tender to provide fuel storage and management to support the U.S. military.

Then in December, the Northern Territory’s Land Development Corporation and Crowley Australia, the Australia-based subsidiary, agreed on where the infrastructure should be located, subsequently signing a long-term lease.

Crowley Australia will manage the development and operations of the facility, while Saunders International will design and construct the 11 jet fuel tanks required, as well as provide engineering, procurement, and construction management services to Crowley.

“These collective efforts will allow Crowley to provide important fuel storage and management services to the U.S. military, as well as strengthen our growing presence within Australia and the Northern Territory,” Crowley Solutions Vice President Sean Thomas said.

The NT Environmental Protection Authority has given the project the green light, and initial works will include clearing the site and establishing vehicle access ahead of construction commencing.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said this investment would mean hundreds of jobs for Territorians close to Darwin CBD, with local businesses also reaping benefits.

“The Territory is becoming a leading hub for defence and national security because of our strategic location and capabilities and because of our can-do attitude,” he said.

This comes after the first four of a new fleet of F-35A Lightning ll fighter jets landed at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory on Dec. 13, 2021.

The fighters will be permanently based in the Territory and replace the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in operation for 33 years.

The new fleet of aircraft is part of the Morrison government’s ongoing investment in the Tindal base to boost the Australian Defence Force’s capacity, as well as strengthen the nation’s Air Force capabilities in the Indo-Pacific, which includes India, Japan, the U.S., Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, and New Zealand.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said that the No.75 Squadron, which had previously operated the Classic Hornet aircraft, would operate the new multi-role fighter jets from the Top End because it is a strategically important location for national defence and regional engagement.

“By the time the Air Force is scheduled to declare F-35A Final Operational Capability in December 2023, sixteen of the fifth-generation multi-role fighters will be based at Tindal, and they will be well practised at operating with our partners in the region,” he said.

“The F-35A-equipped 75 Squadron will capitalise on frequent opportunities to bolster interoperability with U.S. rotational aircraft deployments and other Enhanced Air Cooperation activities that will take place in the Top End as announced at this year’s AUSMIN.”

AUSMIN stands for “Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations” and is the primary forum for bilateral consultations with the U.S. These consultations are held regularly in the U.S. and Australia, providing opportunities to discuss perspectives and approaches on regional and global issues to deepen bilateral foreign security and defence cooperation.