Belgium looks beyond oil for strategic reserves, shifting focus to batteries

Belgium is re-evaluating its strategic fuel reserves, signalling a significant shift away from traditional oil-focused stockpiling. The country wants to proactively diversify its strategic reserve portfolio, still including oil but prioritising batteries and critical minerals, federal Energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten said during a visit to Volvo's Ghent plant.

Since the oil crisis of the 1970s, when Arab oil producers artificially inflated Western prices, the potential of oil to carry geopolitical risks has diminished. "We know from the Covid crisis that it is very important to have stocks of certain strategic items at home," Van der Straeten of Flemish green party Groen told Belga during a visit to Volvo Ghent.

"The first thing we are going to do now for Belgium is to analyse which industries we have, what needs we have and what stocks we need to have."

Europe requires Belgium - like other member states - to hold 90 days' worth of strategic oil stocks, which amounts to more than 2 billion euros, but Van der Straeten wants to see a new composition of the country's strategic reserves. The role of fuel will diminish in the coming decades, partly due to the growing popularity of electric vehicles.

"We no longer need oil reserves, but perhaps strategic earth metals"

"We no longer need oil reserves, but perhaps strategic earth metals," Van der Straeten said. These include lithium, nickel and cobalt. If war or other geopolitical problems threaten Belgium's economy in the future, it will be these types of minerals in particular that will provide the country with a degree of operational security. Hydrogen, for example, is also in demand.

The bill has been discussed in the federal government's Council of Ministers and will soon be debated in the House Energy Committee.


Energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE / Volvo Car Ghent's battery assembly plant © BELGA VIDEO JONAS D'HOLLANDER

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