South Baltic Gas Forum
5 - 9 September 2011, Gdańsk, Poland

Strategic Petroleum Reserve (United States)

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is an emergency fuel storage of petroleum maintained underground in Louisiana and Texas by the United States Department of Energy (DOE). It is the largest emergency supply in the world, with the capacity to hold up to 727 million barrels (115,600,000 m3). The United States started the petroleum reserve in 1975 after oil supplies were interrupted during the 1973–1974 oil embargo, to mitigate future supply disruptions.
Individual caverns within a site can be up to 1000 m below the surface, average dimensions are 60 m wide and 600 m deep, and capacity ranges from 6 to 37 million barrels (950,000 to 5,880,000 m3). Almost $4 billion was spent on the facilities. The decision to store in caverns was made in order to reduce costs; the Department of Energy claims it is roughly 10 times cheaper to store oil below surface with the added advantages of no leaks and a constant natural churn of the oil due to a temperature gradient in the caverns. The caverns were created by drilling down and then dissolving the salt with water.
The SPR was created following the 1973 energy crisis. The EPCA of December 22, 1975, made it policy for the United States to establish a reserve up to 1 billion barrels (159 million m3) of petroleum. A number of existing storage sites were acquired in 1977. Construction of the first surface facilities began in June 1977. On July 21, 1977, the first oil—approximately 412,000 barrels (65,500 m3) of Saudi Arabian light crude—was delivered to the SPR. Fill was suspended in Fiscal Year 1995 to devote budget resources to refurbishing the SPR equipment and extending the life of the complex. The current SPR sites are expected to be usable until around 2025. Fill was resumed in 1999.
On August 17, 2005, the SPR reached its goal of 700 million barrels (110,000,000 m3), or about 96% of its now-increased 727 million barrels (115,600,000 m3) capacity. Approximately 60% of the crude oil in the reserve is the less desirable sour (high sulfur content) variety. The oil delivered to the reserve is "royalty-in-kind" oil´royalties owed to the U.S. government by operators who acquire leases on the federally owned Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. These royalties were previously collected as cash, but in 1998 the government began testing the effectiveness of collecting royalties "in kind"´or in other words, acquiring the crude oil itself. This mechanism was adopted when refilling the SPR began, and once filling is completed, revenues from the sale of future royalties will be paid into the federal treasury.
On September 9, 2011, a Notice of Cancellation was published in the Federal Register after Congress rescinded funding for the expansion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, reversing the SPR expansion initiative previously directed under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

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