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Hideji Sugiyama, vice minister of economy, trade and industry, welcomed on Monday moves by domestic oil firms to tap into their reserves in response to the government’s calls last week to allay global supply concerns in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“I see news reports of the industry’s efforts to release oil stocks and believe they understand the government’s initiative,” Sugiyama said at a news conference.

He added the government will stay in close contact with the firms to ensure that freeing up the reserves has the intended effect.

The government has requested oil firms to release a total of 7.3 billion barrels over 30 days to address the supply shortage.

METI chief Shoichi Nakagawa announced Sept. 6 that Japan will release more than 200,000 barrels a day of either crude oil or petroleum products from reserves held by 66 private-sector firms as part of an International Energy Agency initiative.

To increase supplies to the market, METI lowered the private-sector oil stockpile minimum from 70 days worth of supplies to 67 days.

Exxon Mobil Corp. said Thursday it plans to export 22,000 kiloliters of alkylate, used to produce gasoline, to the United States early next month and 100,000 kiloliters of diesel oil to Europe later this month in response to global supply concerns.

On Sept. 2, the Paris-based IEA said its 26 members will free a total of 2 million barrels from their strategic oil reserves per day for the initial period of 30 days. Japan is responsible for releasing 12.2 percent of the 60 million barrel total. The IEA will review the impact of its coordinated action this week.

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