April 7 (UPI) -- The International Energy Agency announced Thursday that member countries agreed to release another 60 million barrels of oil from their emergency stocks amid a shortage exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
With an earlier release announced March 1, the 31 countries have now committed to 120 million barrels, which the IEA described as the "largest stock release in IEA history."
"The unprecedented decision to launch two emergency oil stock releases just a month apart, and on a scale larger than anything before in the IEA's history, reflects the determination of member countries to protect the global economy from the social and economic impacts of an oil shock following Russia's aggression against Ukraine," said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.
"This latest collective action once again demonstrates the unity of IEA member countries in their solidarity with Ukraine and their determination to provide stability to the oil market during this challenging time. Events in Ukraine are becoming more distressing by the day, and action by the IEA at this time is needed to relieve some of the strains in energy markets."
The agency said that along with millions of barrels released by non-IEA countries, including the United States, 240 million barrels of emergency oil will be released to the global market over the next six months.
At the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on Feb. 24, IEA countries held 1.5 billion barrels of emergency oil in public reserves and another 575 million barrels under obligation. The IEA said member countries' release of 120 million barrels represents about 9% of total emergency reserves.
The announcement comes amid rising oil prices worldwide. The U.S. oil benchmark was $96.94 per barrel Thursday afternoon while the international benchmark Brent crude was trading at $101.27. Prices have generally come down from record highs in mid-March.
The IEA said the release of the emergency supplies will send a message to global oil markets that there won't be a shortfall of oil during and after the invasion.
The IEA said Russia is the third-largest oil producer and largest exporter in the world, giving it "an outsized role on global energy markets." Russia exports about 5 million barrels of oil daily, about 12% of the global trade.