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Frequently Asked Questions on Energy Security

The following information is based on the most recently available data and analysis from the IEA and will be updated periodically.

What is the position of the IEA Governing Board on the situation in Ukraine?

The IEA Governing Board, meeting at Ministerial level on 1 March 2022, expressed solidarity with the people of Ukraine and their democratically elected government in the face of Russia’s appalling and unprovoked violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Russia’s invasion came against a backdrop of already tight global oil markets, with heightened price volatility, commercial inventories that are at their lowest level since 2014, and a limited ability of producers to provide additional supply in the short term. For this reason, in their first collective action following the invasion, agreed on 1 March, Ministers committed to release 62.7 million barrels of emergency stock to send a unified and strong message to global oil markets that there would be no shortfall in supplies as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On 1 April, they agreed to make a further 120 million barrels available, the largest stock release in IEA history.

The IEA Governing Board also recognised Europe’s significant reliance on Russian natural gas and the need to reduce this by looking to other suppliers, including via LNG, and to continue to pursue a well-managed acceleration of clean energy transitions.


Oil stock levels held on national territory in OECD countries

The table below is extracted from the Monthly Oil Data Service (MODS).

Shown are the national territory stock levels1 in OECD countries for total primary products (crude, NGL, and feedstocks), and total oil products split into stocks being held by industry and government controlled.

Industry stocks are primary national territory stocks on land (excluding utility stocks and including pipeline and entrepot stocks where known) and include stocks held by industry to meet IEA, EU and national emergency reserve commitments.

Government stocks are primary stocks, exclusively for emergency purposes, owned by governments and organisations which have been established to hold stocks (stock holding organisations).

Total stocks are industry and government-controlled stocks aggregated.

Oil stock levels held on national territory in OECD countries, February 2022
Thousand barrels

Crude oil, NGLs and feedstocks Total refined products
Total Industry Public Total Industry Public

Canada

138,027

138,027

-

 

49,687

49,687

-

Chile

3,455

3,455

-

 

8,445

8,445

-

Mexico

18,189

18,189

-

 

18,700

18,700

-

United States

1,137,931

559,059

578,872

 

630,500

628,501

1,999

OECD Americas

1,297,603

718,731

578,872

 

707,332

705,333

1,999

Australia

9,837

9,837

-

 

32,746

32,746

-

Israel

-

-

-

 

-

-

-

Japan

401,036

114,495

286,541

 

101,532

76,371

25,160

Korea

109,873

26,308

83,565

 

63,542

50,743

12,799

New Zealand

1,135

1,135

-

 

5,530

5,530

-

OECD Asia Oceania

521,881

151,775

370,106

 

203,350

165,391

37,959

Austria

9,043

3,307

5,736

 

15,047

4,113

10,933

Belgium

6,448

6,448

-

 

35,517

25,763

9,754

Czech Republic

10,370

2,956

7,414

 

13,042

5,314

7,727

Denmark

4,467

4,467

-

 

17,465

10,888

6,577

Estonia

192

192

-

 

2,249

1,279

971

Finland

12,889

7,280

5,609

 

24,209

11,141

13,067

France

53,637

19,448

34,189

 

99,248

25,875

73,373

Germany

151,797

47,320

104,477

 

117,141

50,867

66,274

Greece

9,331

9,331

-

 

19,069

19,069

-

Hungary

13,198

8,555

4,643

 

14,696

8,803

5,893

Iceland

-

-

-

 

-

-

-

Ireland

440

110

330

 

9,835

1,552

8,283

Italy

43,555

43,555

-

 

70,004

54,557

15,447

Latvia

-

-

-

 

1,837

887

950

Lithuania

3,175

3,175

-

 

5,234

3,728

1,506

Luxembourg

-

-

-

 

575

575

-

Netherlands

51,334

47,524

3,810

 

67,107

58,772

8,335

Norway

16,598

16,598

-

 

9,052

9,052

-

Poland

52,406

38,034

14,372

 

28,552

21,356

7,197

Portugal

6,044

2,078

3,966

 

14,092

11,075

3,017

Slovak Republic

7,365

3,226

4,139

 

5,087

3,075

2,012

Slovenia

-

-

-

 

4,983

1,783

3,200

Spain

38,569

26,843

11,726

 

71,935

41,640

30,296

Sweden

9,630

9,630

-

 

20,351

20,351

-

Switzerland

1,644

1,644

-

 

30,195

30,195

-

Turkey

48,976

48,976

-

 

37,937

37,937

-

United Kingdom

34,131

34,131

-

 

37,172

37,172

-

OECD Europe

585,238

384,828

200,411

 

771,629

496,818

274,811

OECD Total

2,404,723

1,255,334

1,149,389

 

1,682,310

1,367,541

314,769

Total IEA

2,398,092

1,248,703

1,149,389

 

1,661,814

1,352,699

309,114

Total stocks on national territory, excluding major consumer (utility) stocks and including pipeline and entrepot. Regional totals are OECD totals. United States includes U.S. territories. Data correspond to most recent reference month of data collected by the IEA. MODS as published on 12th May 2022. These stock levels do not correspond directly to the stock levels used to calculate the 90-day net import coverage of each country as the specific definitions differ.


Have Russian oil and gas exports continued to flow since the start of its invasion of Ukraine?

Russian seaborne exports of crude and product have been hit by import embargoes and buyer boycotts, although the resulting pressure on trade flows has had a mixed impact so far. The wind-down began in mid-March as the US import embargo came into effect and European buyers began to cut imports. Some buyers, most notably in Asia, increased purchases of sharply discounted Russian barrels. For now, there are no signs of increased volumes going to China, where refiners have cut runs as a recent surge in Covid cases and new restrictions have dented oil demand. In our April Oil Market Report, we saw the potential for close to 3 mb/d of Russian production to be offline from May onwards due to international sanctions and as the impact of a widening customer-driven embargo comes into full force.

Despite some damage to the Ukrainian gas network by the Russian invasion, gas transit to Europe remains stable with no disruptions reported to date. Domestic gas supplies in Ukraine have been disrupted in several regions due to pipeline damage caused by military operations.


How much oil does Russia export?

Russia plays an outsized role in world oil markets. It is the third largest producer of oil behind the United States and Saudi Arabia, the world’s second largest exporter of crude oil behind Saudi Arabia, and the largest overall exporter once products are included. It exports about 5 million barrels a day (mb/d) of crude, or about 12% of global trade, and around 2.85 mb/d of products, or about 15% of global trade.


Who are the main customers for Russian oil?

In 2021, more than half of Russia’s oil exports went to Europe, which received about one-third of its oil imports from Russia. Germany was the largest European buyer of Russian oil, followed by the Netherlands and Poland.

China is the single largest buyer of Russian oil, taking 1.6 mb/d of crude on average in 2021, or about 20% of Russia’s exports, equally divided between pipeline and seaborne routes. Japan and Korea combined imported a total of 420 000 barrels a day (kb/d) from Russia last year, about 5% of their total imports, split between crude and products. The United States imported 710 kb/d, or 8% of its total imports, from Russia. But after the invasion, it banned imports of Russian oil, natural gas and coal. Russia was the third largest source of US oil imports prior to that. Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom also banned imports of Russian oil.

In 2021, about 1.3 mb/d of seaborne Russian oil (and 1.5 mb/d of Kazakh crude) transited the Black Sea.


What alternative oil supplies are available in the event Russian exports are curtailed?

Most of the world’s effective spare capacity is concentrated in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Together they hold roughly 3 mb/d of spare capacity, but that is not all immediately available.

Outside of OPEC+, the United States looks set to add 1.4 mb/d this year, with smaller increases from Canada, Guyana and Brazil. We were already expecting robust growth from the US shale sector, as operators have increased their rig count and drilling rates in response to rising prices. However, a sharp draw down in drilled but uncompleted wells (DUCs) during 2021, labour shortages, supply chain issues and cost escalation could limit growth in the near term.

In the absence of a faster ramp up in production, oil stocks will have to balance the market in the coming months. But even before the conflict Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, the industry’s oil inventories were depleting rapidly. At the end of January, OECD inventories were 335 mb below their five-year average and at eight-year lows. This tightness results from the strong economic rebound seen in 2021 and the failure of OPEC+ to meet output targets.


How much natural gas does Russia export?

Russia is the world’s second largest gas producer, after the United States, producing 761 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2021, or 18% of the world’s gas output. Russia is the world’s largest gas exporter, with exports amounting to around 250 bcm in 2021, with 210 bcm transiting through pipelines and 40 bcm transported as liquefied natural gas.


How is this gas exported to Europe, and which routes could be directly impacted by the fighting?

In 2021, Russia supplied 32% of the total gas demand in the European Union and United Kingdom, up from 25% in 2009. However, Russian gas exports to Europe were already declining in the months before the invasion of Ukraine. Russia reduced its exports to Europe by 25% in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020, despite the exceptionally high market prices for natural gas. This artificial tightness was one of the reasons for rising spot gas prices in Europe.

The percentage of Russian pipeline deliveries to Europe passing through Ukraine fell to 25% in 2021 from more than 60% in 2009 because of the development of alternative routes, such as Nord Stream 1 and TurkStream. Overall, about 9% of the European Union and United Kingdom’s combined natural gas demand passes through Ukraine.


How dependent is Russia on oil and gas revenue?

Revenues from oil and gas-related taxes and export tariffs accounted for 45% of Russia’s federal budget in January 2022. Considering current market prices, the export value of Russian piped gas to the EU alone amounts to USD 400 million per day. Total export revenues for crude oil and refined products currently amount to around USD 700 million per day.  


Can the EU reduce its reliance on Russian natural gas in the short term?

On 3 March, 2022, the IEA Secretariat released a 10-Point Plan for how European countries could cut their gas imports from Russia by a third within a year. The key actions include not signing any new gas contracts with Russia; maximising gas supplies from other sources; accelerating the deployment of solar and wind; making the most of existing low emissions energy sources, including nuclear; and ramping up energy efficiency measures.

The IEA followed up on 18 March with a new 10-Point Plan to reduce oil consumption, and then on 21 April with Playing my part, a report on steps average citizens can take to reduce energy consumption, cut their fuel bills, and support Ukraine.

What actions did IEA member countries take in response to the energy market impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

On March 1, 2022, the IEA’s 31 members agreed to release at least 60 million barrels from their emergency stocks to head off any potential shortfalls in energy supply, which soon rose to 62.7 million once countries announced their commitments. On 1 April, IEA members agreed to make a further 120 million barrels available, the largest collective action in the Agency’s history.

These actions were the fourth and fifth collective responses in the IEA’s history, following previous ones in 2011, 2005 and 1991.


How does the IEA’s 1 March decision compare with previous IEA collective actions?

In 2011, the IEA’s members released 60 million barrels in response to disruptions caused by the Libyan Civil War, and in 2005 they released the same amount after Hurricane Katrina damaged facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

On 17 January 1991, when Allied forces started their air campaign against Iraq, the IEA activated a pre-agreed plan to release 2.5 million barrels a day. That plan was extended on 28 January, but with greater flexibility for individual members to respond to supply-and-demand conditions.


What is the IEA oil stockholding requirement?

Each IEA country has an obligation to hold oil stocks equivalent to at least 90 days of net oil imports and to be ready to collectively respond to severe supply disruptions affecting the global oil market, in accordance with the Agreement on an International Energy Programme (I.E.P.). 


What is the role of the IEA in the event of a disruption to oil supply?

Since the IEA’s founding in 1974, a key aspect of its work has been to help coordinate collective responses to major oil supply disruptions, by providing additional oil to the global market on a short-term basis. Once the need for an IEA collective action has been agreed, each member country’s contribution is proportionate to its share of total oil consumption among IEA member countries.

The IEA emergency response system is designed to mitigate the negative economic impacts of a supply shock, and not as a tool to manage prices or long-term supply, both of which are more effectively addressed through other measures.


Where does the additional oil supply come from?

Oil stockholdings can be held as industry stocks, government stocks and agency stocks, with most countries using a combination of the three. Some countries impose stockholdings requirements on companies such as importers, refiners, and wholesalers. IEA members’ stockholding structure and emergency policies are assessed every 5 years as part of a peer-to-peer review process.

  •  Government stocks: Australia, Czech Republic, New Zealand, United States
  • Agency stocks: Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Slovak Republic
  • Combination of government and obligated industry stocks: Japan, Korea, Poland
  • Obligated industry stocks: Greece, Luxembourg, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom 
  • Combination of agency and obligated industry stocks: Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain

As net-exporters of oil, Canada, Mexico and Norway do not have a stockholding obligation under the International Energy Programme.


Does the IEA specify how the stocks should be held?

Member countries have substantial flexibility in how they meet their obligations. Stocks can he held as crude or refined products, with the choice often depending on the extent of their domestic refining industry.  Stocks can be held exclusively for emergencies or for commercial purposes, and can be held in other countries under bilateral agreements 

Member countries can use their stocks to respond to domestic crises, though they do need to inform the IEA Secretariat of the details and circumstances. Many member countries maintain stock levels well above the IEA obligations, so drawing on emergency stocks does not necessarily mean they drop below the 90-day threshold.


How does the IEA collaborate with non-member countries? 

Since the IEA was established in the 1970s, there have been significant shifts in the global energy landscape, with emerging economies becoming major oil consumers and importers. The IEA works closely with countries outside of its membership to find solutions to shared energy and environmental concerns.

The IEA consults with OPEC and its larger member countries during major oil supply disruptions to determine their ability and willingness to use any available spare production capacity to bring additional oil to the market.

Notes and references
  1. These stock levels do not correspond directly to the stock levels used to calculate the 90-day net import coverage of each country as the specific definitions differ.