Emergency plan | 

Government plans for 'work from home' return to save fuel in event of crisis due to Ukraine war

We have learned confidential details of an emergency planning exercise held 10 days ago

In the event of severe fuel shortages, non-essential workers may be instructed to work remotely as a contingency measure

Eavan Murray

People will be ordered to work from home in the event of a fuel crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine, under secret Government emergency plans.

The Sunday World has learned confidential details of an emergency planning exercise held 10 days ago between all the major state agencies and the Government.

The high-level planning exercise proposed three fuel-supply deficit scenarios, and possible consequences were presented and discussed.

Delegates were given a scenario of a 20pc diesel supply deficit in September and a 35pc drop in supply in December. The third and most extreme scenario proposed for February 2023, is where gas and oil supplies cannot meet the demand for electricity generation or farmers preparing to cut silage.

The Sunday World can reveal that in the event of a national fuel crisis, emergency contingency measures discussed at the high-level meeting include: non-essential workers will be ordered to work from home; a limit will be placed on all non-essential car travel; a strict limit on the amount of fuel motorists can buy; and the implementation of an immediate and strict reduction in the speed limit on motorways.

The plan also includes the introduction of an emergency scheme whereby motorists with an odd number at the end of their car registration will only be allowed to drive or refuel on alternate days. Those with odd numbers could refuel on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday and those with an even number on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The confidential meeting, convened by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) on May 26 at the National Emergency Co-ordination Centre, was termed the "Oil Emergency Exercise".

The meeting was attended by members of DECC, the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA), Fuels for Ireland (FFI), the Department of Transport and National Emergency Coordination Group (NECG).

Each group was required to run through the three possible scenarios. One Government source described the planning exercise and the options available to mitigate supply problems and protect societal function as "very, very stark".

"They gave us a scenario where there was a 20pc reduction of diesel coming into the country. And then one where there was 30-35pc reduction and then one where essentially we don't have enough oil or gas, and the question arises as to whether we divert oil to electricity generation or agriculture to grow food.

"All of this happening is very unlikely but to have it discussed openly when we know the situation in Ukraine was an eye-opener."

Senior Government sources have told the Sunday World the likelihood of a fuel crisis at the magnitudes discussed at the meeting is "highly remote".

The first scenario would be introduced if there was an 18-20pc shortfall in diesel.

The plan states that if a supply deficit of this magnitude occurs, it will lead to "diesel stockouts" where many fuel stations will run dry and supply to critical and emergency services will be threatened. At this point, NORA would be required to release limited amounts of its 90-day reserve stock to meet essential demand.

In the second scenario, fuel stocks have dipped to dangerously low levels - 35pc below demand for eight weeks leading up to December 19, 2022.

At this point, the NECG will discuss activating the Oil Emergency Allocation Scheme "to control the supply and distribution of diesel".

The emergency contingency plan, if implemented, would prioritise essential services and critical workers, with other motorists told to limit their driving. If Ireland has to introduce fuel rationing, consumers would be separated into four categories.

Tier one comprises essential workers. Those classified in tier four are motorists making non-essential journeys.

Kevin McPartlan, CEO of Fuels for Ireland, described the planning exercise as "prudent".

"While it remains highly unlikely that we will experience a reduced supply of fuel, it is prudent that we and Government engage in emergency planning," he said.

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