Downstream oil resilience

Downstream oil resilience

Technical incidents without any discernible impact on supplies in the downstream oil sector are usually managed and resolved by the companies involved (downstream refers to supply of oil products from their production at refineries to their final consumption by end users). Significant disruption to supply or demand patterns, however, must be managed by DECC. 

As part of the Government's ongoing programme of work to build resilience to disruptive challenges, DECC has developed with key stakeholders the National Emergency Plan for Fuel (NEP-F), which identifies how resources of the downstream oil industry and government can be used in an emergency.

In the event of an actual or threatened emergency in the UK that will affect fuel supplies, emergency powers under the Energy Act 1976 may be brought into force. These powers allow the regulation or prohibition of the production, supply, acquisition or use of substances used as fuel. These powers underpin many of the response tools in the NEP-F.

The UK Government, Scottish Executive, Welsh National Assembly, oil companies, trade associations, hauliers, the Trades Union Congress, and the police are committed to maintaining the normal supply of oil fuels as a national priority and economic imperative, in a manner which ensures the safety of employees, their contractors and the public.

DECC advises all organisations to review their business continuity planning and to ensure provision for unexpected shortages of fuel is included in these plans. DECC and the Cabinet Office compiled the UK Resilience guidance to assist operators in business continuity planning.   


The availability of accurate and up-to-date information on stock and supplies is essential during an emergency response. A communications framework is in place, outlining how information would be disseminated and how the media would be involved. 

The communications strategy aims to: 

  • provide timely and accurate information to the public to minimise anxiety and discourage impulse buying
  • anticipate likely media interest and provide timely and accurate responses, utilising latest industry information

Key messages

The strategy will set out the key messages relevant to the particular disruption. At the outset, in the lead up to any potential disruption of supply, the key messages will be general lines of reassurance.

As events start to unfold, the key messages will become more specific and reliant on timely information from industry.


The focus of the communication strategy will vary depending on the situation. For most situations, in the lead up to any potential disruption it is likely the initial focus will be on assessing the likely disruption and allaying public anxiety. In most cases it has been the spread of panic buying that has created fuel shortage – not disruption to supply.

The key to any communication strategy is ensuring accurate and timely information flows between the industry, government and (if appropriate) the police and local authorities. It is critical spokespeople are available to speak accurately and with authority to the media to provide public reassurance.


DECC would oversee implementation of the communication strategy, and work closely with the industry-media network to ensure dissemination of accurate and timely information. Depending on the situation, the Government's News Co-ordination Centre (NCC) would need to be fully briefed as events unfold and it may assume overall responsibility for communications in the event of a national emergency.


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