How much oil is needed to power Santa’s sleigh?

18 December 2015 7:30 am

It’s an important question in the lead up to Christmas, particularly with the price of oil falling to near 11 year lows with the over-supply to key markets.

Now, Santa has to travel 510,000,000 km on Christmas Eve, and he has 32 hours to do it. That means Santa will be travelling at 10,703,437.5km/hr, or about 1800 miles per second, all night.

Carrying 840,000 tonnes of toys will require 5,600,000 reindeer to pull. Given each reindeer weighs around 272 kg, the whole procession (assuming a weightless sleigh) will have a mass of 2,363,200 tonnes when standing still. Of course, there is an issue of the the relativistic increase in mass caused by the speed of the sleigh. Travelling at 10,703,437.5km/hr, or 0.97 per cent of light speed, the whole thing will have an apparent weight to a stationary observer of 2,363,310.33 tonnes.

So how many households does Santa have to visit? There are more than 7.3 billion people in the world today. Now, not all of them celebrate Christmas but some estimate it applies to 45 per cent of the world’s population.

Now Michael McDonald at Oil Price says that assuming Santa wants to fly diagonally over each square mile (for a distance of 1.41 miles based on the Pythagorean Theorem), and households are on average distributed proportionally across this each 1 mile block, then Santa will have to fly over 2.41 miles of ground to cover each square mile as efficiently as possible.

“As a result, Santa needs to travel around 226 million miles to deliver all of the presents to the world's children. This assumes minimal idle time on each rooftop (he's got to scarf down those cookies quickly), and abstracts away from the extra fuel needed for each takeoff.

“Given our 5 miles per gallon of jet fuel efficiency calculated above, that means Santa needs around 45 million gallons of jet fuel for his annual voyage. With jet fuel going for around $1.20 a gallon right now on the spot market, and prices lookinghistorically low, this puts the total fuel cost of Santa's journey at a bit less than $54 million for one night.”

Unless of course, he finds some super-powerful reindeer.