EU ministers agree on oil stocks

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Energy ministers moved to address the EU’s supply security on Friday (12 June) by reaching political agreement on minimum oil stocks of 90 days.

The new directive on oil stocks seeks to update legislation dating from 1968 by aligning EU practice with that of the International Energy Agency (IEA), of which some member states are not members.

The European Commission proposed a directive on minimum crude oil and petroleum stocks as a part of its Second Strategic Review in November 2008, in an attempt to improve the bloc’s security of supply. 

The Russia-Ukraine gas crisis in January sped up the legislative process after massive gas supply disruptions in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine dispute in January, which demonstrated the value of effective emergency strategies (EURACTIV 19/02/09). 

The new directive will not represent a huge departure from the IEA’s current 90-day practice. However, it requires that at least 30 days’ worth of the emergency stocks must be in the form of refined products, effectively forcing member states to vary their stocks according to national consumption patterns.

The original Commission proposal of November 2008 foresaw an obligation for governments to report on the level of commercial oil stocks on a weekly basis, but energy ministers softened this to a monthly obligation.

Member states also strongly opposed increasing the Commission’s power over releasing stocks in emergency situations, upholding national sovereignty over such decisions. The EU executive wanted the right to “require” member states to release stocks in the event of an International Energy Agency (IEA) decision, but can now merely recommend them to do so.

“Whilst the Council did not retain some elements of our original proposal, I’m satisfied that the new legislation will bring the EU system of oil stocks closer to current international practices and strengthen the Community’s capacity to use the stocks effectively, so as to minimise the negative effect on consumers in case of a supply crisis,” said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

In November 2008, the European Commission tabled its Second Strategic Energy Review. The policy document seeks to address security of energy supply and sets out policy priorities in the field of energy for the next Commission.

The European Parliament endorsed the review in February, calling on EU leaders to adopt a "new ambitious and far-sighted diversification plan" for Europe's energy. 

The review called for the extension of the EU's gas supply routes and sources to the Caspian region when "political conditions permit," and mentioned the Nabucco, Turkey-Greece-Italy and South Stream pipelines as alternatives to Russian gas in the aftermath of the gas supply crisis between Russia and Ukraine (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on 'Pipeline politics'). 

The strategy included energy-efficiency proposals and provisions for minimum oil stocks. There is currently no legislation for compulsory gas stocks, but discussions are underway. 

  • By 31 Dec. 2012: Member states to fulfil the stocks requirements.

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