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Switzerland Releases Emergency Oil Reserves

Switzerland will release oil from its emergency reserves as it lowers the obligatory levels of petroleum stocks by 6.5% due to low water levels on the Rhine River and chaos in railway transportation, the government said on Friday.

A spokesperson for the government confirmed to Reuters that the decision to reduce the mandatory stock level by 6.5% between July 25 and the beginning of September would include the release of reserves.

Heat waves and droughts in many parts of Europe have drained the water levels at the biggest navigational rivers, including the Rhine.

The Rhine River, which runs northwest from Switzerland through Germany, France, and the Netherlands into the North Sea, is a major petroleum product transportation corridor in Europe.

Switzerland gets petroleum supplies via two key routes—via the Rhine and through railway transport. Low water levels on the Rhine have led to a drastic reduction in the amount of products shipped on the river, while the cross-border railway traffic to Switzerland is seeing massive cancellations and delays due to a lack of personnel and ongoing repair works, the government said.

The previous time Switzerland reduced the mandatory threshold of petroleum stocks was in the summer of 2018, which was also a very dry summer and transport capacity on the Rhine was also severely reduced.  

Back in 2018, historically low water levels on the Rhine River resulted in transportation disruptions for shipments of petroleum products by barge in Europe.  

This summer, the low water levels on the Rhine have already caused logistics issues with coal in Germany. Power plants in Germany are finding it increasingly difficult to source coal amid an energy crisis that is spiraling out of control as falling water levels on the Rhine River add to supply challenges caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine. Two German power plants in particular–one in Mannheim and one in Karlsruhe–are lacking sufficient coal supplies for operations. Those supplies would typically be shipped in through the Rhine.

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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