The Road to Refilling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Posted June 29, 2023
The U.S. Energy Department (DOE) recently announced steps to put 6 million barrels of American-produced oil back into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).
Contracts have been awarded to acquire 3 million barrels from five companies that will be delivered to the Big Hill SPR storage site in Texas in August, DOE said. In addition, the department has issued solicitations to buy 3 million barrels of sour crude oil that will be put in the reserve in coming months.
The Biden administration drew 180 million barrels from the reserve last year in an effort to stabilize crude oil markets roiled by Russia’s war against Ukraine and supply strains as world economies bounced back after the pandemic. The administration’s plan was to replenish the SPR when the global price of crude reached favorable levels.
According to government data, on June 23 the SPR held about 348 million barrels, its lowest level since August of 1983, 40 years ago. That’s down from about 568 million barrels at the end of March 2022. At its peak in 2011, the reserve held more than 726 million barrels.
We’ll point out that Democratic and Republican administrations have deployed the SPR for different reasons over the years. The purpose here is to update where things stand with the reserve and to put in perspective steps taken so far to refill it.
Certainly, the reserve is very important to U.S. energy security. Refilling it increases the government’s ability to mitigate a variety of potential supply disruptions. While 6 million barrels is a step toward that goal, there’s a long way to go.
Former U.S. Interior Department official Bud Danenberger writes that the barrels contracted for and the proposed purchases represent 2% of the oil withdrawn from the reserve since January 2021.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.