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Swiss allow diesel release as Rhine water levels hit imports

ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss government has authorised the temporary release of diesel from the country’s compulsory stockpile after low water levels on the Rhine reduced supplies to the country.

Around 40 percent of Switzerland’s diesel is brought into the country along the Rhine, with the rest by cargo trains, pipelines, trucks and the country’s own refineries.

The Swiss Federal Office for National Economic Supply decided to allow the release of 30,000 cubic metres of diesel on Monday from its stockpile, which belongs to import companies.

The figure is equivalent to 2.5 percent of all the diesel it holds.

The country holds diesel, petrol, and heating oil for four- and-a-half months of emergency supply and three months for aircraft fuel.

“The water levels in the Rhine have been very low, which has reduced the import of diesel into Switzerland,” said Lucio Gastaldi, head of the energy and industry secretariat.

“We have authorised the release of enough diesel as an immediate measure to last until the end of the month. We are watching the situation very closely and will release more diesel if necessary.”

A further evaluation with the oil industry will take place on Thursday to discuss further measures, although no steps have yet been decided, Gastaldi said.

Switzerland imports 120,000 cubic meters of diesel per month via the Rhine.

The emergency supply measures have not been extended to petrol or heating oil at present, mainly because mild autumn weather so far has reduced the need for heating oil.

Petrol is imported more via railways and the shortages are not currently as pronounced as with diesel, Gastaldi said.

Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Michael Shields