Today in Energy

June 24, 2011

International Energy Agency members release strategic petroleum stocks

graph of Major U.S. strategic petroleum releases, as described in the article text

On June 23, 2011, the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that its member countries agreed to release 60 million barrels of petroleum from their strategic reserves. The barrels will be made available over the next month and will result in an average release of 2 million barrels per day. As part of the effort, the United States will make available 30 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The IEA's 27 other member countries will make available the remaining 30 million barrels in the form of either product or crude oil.

Historically, releases from the SPR have taken one of two forms, either an exchange, where oil provided in the release is then repaid within a specified time, or sales, where oil is auctioned off in a competitive bidding process.

The SPR crude oil stocks are stored in underground salt caverns along the Gulf of Mexico Coast. Currently, there are a historically high 726.6 million barrels of crude oil in SPR, close to its 727.0 million barrel capacity.

This action marks the third time IEA members have collectively agreed to release strategic petroleum stocks. The previous occasions were the launch of Operation Desert Storm in 1990/1991 following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The United States has released crude oil from the SPR a number of times since 1985, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The most recent release was the 5.4 million barrel exchange following Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in September 2008. To date, the largest release was a 30 million barrel exchange in the fall of 2000 in response to low heating oil supplies in the Northeast region of the United States.