Ireland's legislation on oil security

Part of Oil Security Toolkit

The 1971 Fuels (Control of Supplies) Act, as amended by the 1982 Fuels (Control of Supplies) Act, provides the legal framework to Ireland’s response to oil emergencies, where it is necessary for the Government to control the supply of fuel to the market. Additional provisions concerning Ireland’s Central Stockholding Entity (CSE), The National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA), and the release of stocks from Ireland’s emergency stockholding are provided by the 2007 National Oil Reserves Agency Act (NORA Act). The 2012 European Union (Oil Reserves) Regulations set-out Ireland’s stockholding obligations, being amended by the 2016 European Union (Oil Reserves) (Amendment) Regulations.


The Government may utilise the powers laid down in the 1971 and 1972 Acts in the event of a shortage of fuel in the domestic market, necessitating the allocation of fuel to critical infrastructure and to vulnerable users. Stock may be released from Ireland’s stockholding in the event of a shortage of refined product on the domestic market, or to participate in an IEA collective action, to alleviate a global oil shortage.


The 1971 and 1972 Acts, provide that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (the Minister) may by Order, where a declaration by Government (Government Order) is in place “provide for the regulation or control of the acquisition, supply, distribution or marketing of the type or types of fuel to which the order under section 2 of this Act relates”. Section 2 of the 1971 Act specifies all of the refined product types commonly available in the Irish market. The requirement for a Government Order to be in place means that a Government decision is required, in the exigencies of the common good, prior to an Order being made by the Minister.

In the event of a shortage of refined products on the domestic market, which may be alleviated by a stock release, the Minister has the power to release stock from Ireland’s emergency stock holding. Similarly, the Minister may release stock in the event of Ireland participating in an IEA collective action.


Storage Agency

Under the NORA Act 2007, NORA has operational responsibly for the day to day management of Ireland’s emergency stock holding. The 2007 Act provides for the establishment of NORA (section 7). Section 8 specifies the objects and functions of NORA, including that it is required to hold oil stocks, provide advice to the Minister on holding oil stocks and collect a levy (the NORA Levy) on oil disposals to the market to fund its activities. Under section 32, NORA may either discharge its obligations itself or it may enter into stockholding contracts, under section 33, with other entities. Also, under section 38 the 2007 Act, companies holding stocks equal to 55 days of their imports in the previous year may apply for an exemption from the NORA levy.

Storage Quantity

NORA must ensure that Ireland has as a minimum available such volumes of oil stock so as to ensure Ireland’s compliance with international stockholding obligations (NORA Act 2007, section 32).

Availability of stocks

Article 32 of the NORA Act 2007 stipulates that Ireland’s emergency stocks must be available at all times.

Storage Locations

Ireland’s primary legislation does not specify particular geographic locations for the storage of emergency stocks. However, the 2015 Government White Paper on Energy established Government policy to hold as great a volume of Ireland’s emergency stock holding within Ireland as possible.


General

Section 2 of the 1971 Fuels (Control of Supplies) Act provides for the Minister, on the making of a Government Order, to on behalf of the State, take control of the supply and distribution of fuels whenever the Government is of opinion that the exigencies of the common good necessitate this.

Stockdraw

Sale/Tender

In the event of domestic oil shortage, or an IEA collective action, the Minister may order the release of stocks from Irelands’ emergency stockholding to the commercial oil companies who pay the NORA levy. In doing so he will both instruct NORA to release the stocks, and give them authorisation to hold less stock than is required to meet the Ireland’s IEA and EU obligations.

Production Surge

N/A

Demand restraint

Section 3 of the 1971 Act provides for the Minister at times of emergency to take measures controlling, regulating, restricting and prohibiting the import or export of fuel. In the event of a prolonged oil emergency, the National Emergency Coordination Group, which consists of representatives of all Government Departments, key Agencies and industry, would be convened for the duration of the emergency. Decisions by the Minister on measures to reduce fuel consumption or to allocate fuel to priority users would be guided by this cross sectoral “whole of Government” approach.

The 2004 Road Traffic Act allows the Minister for Transport to reduce speed limits, as agreed by Government.

Fuel Switching

N/A


Ireland’s emergency regime is monitored and enforced on the domestic, regional and international level. Each will be considered in turn.

Domestic

Reporting duties

Under the provisions of the NORA Act 2007, NORA reports to the Minister on the composition of Ireland’s emergency stockholding on a monthly basis. Also, under section 38 the 2007 Act, companies holding stocks equal to 55 days of their imports in the previous year are required to report monthly to the Minister on stock held, in order to maintain their exemption from payment of the NORA levy.

Enforcement

Where the Minister has exercised control of the fuel market under the 1971 Act, there is provision under section 4A for the Minister to require a person to furnish such information as is in the opinion of the Minister necessary in order to enable him to implement an order, under the act. Article 4 of the 1971 Act also specifies that a person who knowingly contravenes or attempts so to contravene a provision in an order made by the Minister under this Act, or in a direction shall be guilty of an offence and may be liable to pay fines of up to €100,000 or prison terms not exceeding 10 years. Also, section 7 of the 1971 Act provides that authorised officers are entitled to inspect premises at all reasonable times and to examine documents applicable to the operation of measures contained in the order.

Regional

European Union

As a Member State of the European Union, Council Directive 2009/119/EC obliges Ireland to maintain a minimum volume of emergency oil stocks corresponding to 90 days of average daily net imports or 61 days of average daily inland consumption, whichever of the two quantities is greater. The Directive also imposes strict requirements concerning the composition and location of the emergency oil stocks, so as to guarantee their availability and accessibility in case of need, among other provisions.

Ireland’s compliance with the provisions of the directive is monitored and enforced by the European Commission. If a Member State is deemed not to be compliant with the EU Directive, the Commission might decide to initiate an infringement procedure, which might ultimately lead to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (articles 258-259, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

International

The IEA

As a Member of the IEA, Ireland is obliged, pursuant to article 2 of the International Energy Programme (IEP), to maintain oil reserves equivalent to 90 days of net imports of the previous year. IEA Members are obliged to submit information concerning their emergency measures to the IEA secretariat (article 32 IEP) on a continuous basis and the IEA monitors Member countries’ compliance with the IEP. The IEP does not, however, make any provision for the enforcement of any obligations imposed by the IEP.