Crude oil is imported into Germany via four transnational crude oil pipelines as well as the ports of Wilhelmshaven, Brunsbüttel, Hamburg and Rostock. Pipelines lead from the ports of Wilhelmshaven, Brunsbüttel and Rostock to various . The pipeline infrastructure is owned by the petroleum-refining industry; they are operated by joint ventures of several petroleum companies.
Crude oil, intermediate and finished products are stored both underground in caverns as well as above ground in refineries and numerous tank storage facilities that are independent of refineries. Tank storage facilities in Germany have a total capacity of 63.3 million cubic metres, of which more than 40% is accounted for by caverns (as of 31 December 2011). With regard to surface storage capacities, once again around one-third are operated by companies that are independent from the refineries. A significant portion of total capacities are used by the to stockpile supplies of crude oil and crude oil products as provision for times of crisis.
Petroleum is processed in Germany at 13 refineries with a crude oil refining capacity of 104.4 million tonnes. Gross refinery production of petroleum products was 104.4 million tonnes in 2012 and hence 0.98% below the previous year's level and 8.6% below the level of 2001. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 16,291 persons were directly employed in refining of petroleum in Germany in 2012.
Along with Italy, Germany is the biggest centre of refining in Europe. The owners of the refineries are usually foreign multinational energy enterprises. As a result of waning consumption of petroleum products and increasing non-European competition, refineries have been both sold and decommissioned over the last few years. It was for this reason that the then EU Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger, established a "round table for the EU refinery sector" in early 2012. The transformation of the sector and the influence of European framework conditions are discussed in this framework together with representatives of European refineries, trade unions and members of the European Parliament. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy takes part in this discussion process on behalf of the Federal Government.
In addition to the refining of crude oil, most of which is imported, into petroleum products, finished products are also traded internationally. Almost 32.3 million tonnes were imported into Germany and about 18.7 million tonnes exported in 2012. A significant share of this international trade - e. g. almost half in the case of diesel imports - was accounted for by energy traders that do not have any refining capacities of their own. Trade also helps smooth out differences in the consumption and production structure for petroleum products. Thus more petrol and petrol components were exported than imported, while the foreign trade balance with so-called middle distillates (diesel, light heating oil and heating oil components) is negative.