Oil is traded in a market where uncertainty, price volatility, and sudden supply disruptions are common characteristics. Natural disasters, political disagreements and wars can seriously disrupt oil supply and demand with consequent detrimental impacts on economic activity. One particularly powerful policy tool that IEA member countries have to respond to such disruptions is the release of emergency oil stocks. In its 40 year history, the IEA released stocks on three occasions to reduce the supply disruptions and the associated economic damage.
This paper provides a general guide to the existing emergency stockholding system for those countries who are considering the introduction of new stockholding systems or changes to their existing emergency stocks. It draws together analysis of the costs and benefits of emergency stocks, in addition to exploring options for financing the establishment of stocks.