The idea of having a strategic petroleum reserve dates back to World War II.
But it wasn’t actually created until 1975, after the Arab Oil Embargo created crude oil and gasoline shortages across the nation.
The reserve is composed of four salt cavern complexes with 727 million barrels of storage capacity along the
The reserve can access interstate pipelines to carry oil to nearly half of the nation’s oil refineries, with ships and barges supplying the rest.
Each complex includes caverns that range in size from 6 to 35 million barrels of capacity, with the typical cavern being cylindrical, 200 feet in diameter and 2,000 feet in depth.
At its start, the federal government acquired existing salt caverns owned by private operators to set up a 250 million barrel reserve.
Over time, it built additional caverns by drilling wells into salt formations and using solution mining to create new ones by blasting out the formations using fresh water.
By carefully controlling injections, salt caverns of very precise dimensions were created. It took seven barrels of water to create storage space for one barrel of reserve oil. Dissolved salt either was injected into disposal wells or piped offshore and dumped into the Gulf of
Besides being the least expensive way to store oil, the use of deep salt caverns also is one of the most environmentally secure, according to the
At depths ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 feet, the salt walls of the storage caverns are “self-healing” thanks to extreme geologic pressures. A natural temperature difference between the top and bottoms of caverns keeps the crude oil continuously circulating and at a consistent quality.
Because oil floats on water, the latter is used to move oil in and out of the caverns. To withdraw oil, fresh water is pumped into the bottom of a cavern to push its crude to the surface.
About 60 percent of the oil stored in the reserve is sour, or, has high sulfur content. The remainder is sweet.
The reserve was filled to its capacity on
Over the years, the government spent about $5 billion to build the reserve and $20.7 billion to fill it with oil.
As a participant in the International Energy Program, the
Winberg testified the
When releases are ordered, the nominal drawdown capability is 4.4 million barrels per day, and it takes 13 days from the time it is ordered until the oil reaches the U.S. market.
According to the energy department website, here’s a listing of past drawdowns from the reserve before fiscal 2017:
–A test sale of 5 million barrels in 2014.
–A coordinated release of 30.64 million barrels through the
–A sale of 11 million barrels after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
–Sales of 28 million barrels in 1996 and 1997.
–A test sale of 4 million barrels and an ordered drawdown of 17 million barrels because of the
–A test sale of 1 million barrels in 1985.
Exchanges also have been made between the reserve and private operators to address supply disruptions caused by hurricanes and other events.
In 2012, the reserve exchanged 1 million barrels with
In 2008, the reserve exchanged about 5.4 million barrels with Marathon and other firms after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
In 2006, the reserve exchanged 750,000 barrels with
The same year, it exchanged a similar amount with
In 2005, it exchanged 9.8 million barrels of crude with private operators to keep them going after Hurricane Katrina disrupted Gulf of
In 2004, it exchanged 5.4 million barrels of oil with private operators for the same reasons after Hurricane Ivan.
In 2002, it exchanged 98,000 barrels with
In 2000, it exchanged 30 million barrels with private operators to address concerns about low distillate inventories in Northeast.
Also in 2000, it exchanged 2.8 million barrels of crude for first-year tank storage and stocks involving 2 million barrels of Northeast home heating oil and exchanged 500,000 barrels each with CITGO and
In 1998, it exchanged 11 million barrels of lower quality crude for 8.5 million barrels of oil more suitable for
And in 1996, it exchanged 900,000 barrels with ARCO to help it resolve a pipeline blockage problem.
In this photo, a pump jack works produces oil near
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