Energy Statisticians Launch Major Initiative; IEA Announces Data Round-Tables with Industry

(Paris) — 13 April 2001

The International Energy Agency announced today that it will hold a series of working sessions with oil-industry experts designed to improve statistics gathering and reporting. This initiative complements a co-operative effort undertaken by six major International Organisations, including the IEA, to enhance oil-market transparency by producing more accurate, timely and complete data. "Lack of reliable data leads to uncertainty in markets," said Robert Priddle, the IEAs Executive Director, "and uncertainty produces volatility, which is bad for producers and consumers alike." Producing and consuming countries are both represented in the six co-operating organisations: the Asia Pacific Energy Research Centre (APERC), the European Unions Eurostat, the IEA, the Latin American Energy Organisation (OLADE), OPEC and the United Nations Statistics Division.

The initiative began with a meeting in Madrid in July last year, where a number of prominent oil analysts discussed "Better Data for Better Markets." Representatives of the organisations met in Paris in December. At that meeting, experts identified a number of technical problems- involving methodology, definitions and units of account - on which officials of the six organisations could act directly. Other issues, such as late or incomplete submissions, the experts recognised would require the direct involvement of member countries. A third meeting took place on 2 and 3 April, in Bangkok. Representatives of the six international organisations and of 20 key producing and consuming countries discussed the causes for lack of transparency in oil markets, and agreed on several common steps to extend and improve statistical coverage of oil issues. The group stressed the need for countries and organisations, as well as for the oil industry to provide more resources to statistical work. As a first concrete step, the Bangkok meeting produced plans for a six-month exercise in co-operation with countries and international organisations Participants will meet again before the end of the year to assess the results and plan further actions. Saudi Arabia has offered to host that meeting.

During the same period, the IEA will involve the oil industry in the effort through a series of working round-tables. These sessions will be organised by the Agencys Oil Industry and Markets Division, the group that produces the authoritative monthly Oil Market Report. Participants will consider a long and very technical list of factors that can complicate the collection of accurate data. Among them: smuggling, conversion factors, unreported producer and commercial stocks, linefill and minimum operating stocks for new facilities, and "apparent demand" in China and the former Soviet Union. "Good data are the bedrock of good analysis," Priddle said in announcing plans for the round-table. "In an imperfect world, there will always be a need for second-hand and anecdotal evidence. But many of the problems that plague statistics gathering and compilation can be reduced through international cooperation and the political commitment of governments to transparency. The IEA intends to play a major part in addressing those problems.