DOE Releases 1 Million Barrels of Crude Oil From Emergency Reserve

The Valero Energy Corporation’s refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, 2015. Credit: IIP Photo Archive, Carol M. Highsmith, Flickr Creative Commons.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced the release of 1 million barrels of crude oil from the federal Strategic Petroleum Reserve in response to refinery outages caused by Hurricane Harvey. With close to half the country’s oil refineries located on the Gulf Coast, the DOE move is intended to help offset fuel shortages in the hurricane’s aftermath, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Perry authorized 400,000 barrels of low-sulfur sweet crude and 600,000 barrels of higher-sulfur sour crude to be released from a Strategic Petroleum Reserve site in West Hackberry, Louisiana, Bloomberg wrote. The oil is being delivered via pipeline to a refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana, operated by Phillips 66.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was initially created following the 1970s Arab oil embargo and stores oil at four underground sites in Texas and Louisiana, the Associated Press noted. The last time these reserves were tapped was 2012 in response to Hurricane Isaac, when Marathon Petroleum Corp. requested a loan of 1 million barrels, Bloomberg says.

Yesterday, Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, called the released reserves a “drop in the bucket,” saying that for a notable difference to be made in terms of oil supply, the country needs the Port of Houston to be opened. The Port opened for business today.

In total the heavily guarded reserves contain 679 million barrels of oil, enough to meet the nation’s needs for 33 days, according to Reuters. Hurricane Sandy prompted the creation of the Northeast Gasoline Supply Reserve in 2014, which stores 1 million barrels of gasoline in several commercial storage terminals in three northeast states. In May, the Trump administration proposed selling half the crude oil reserves and all of the gasoline stockpile.

About a fifth of the nation’s refining capabilities were knocked out by Hurricane Harvey, the Dallas News reported.

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