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DOE Takes Next Steps to Expand Strategic Petroleum Reserve to One Billion Barrels

December 8, 2006 - 9:34am

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Richton, Mississippi is Preferred New Site for Reserve

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman today announced that DOE has identified the salt domes at Richton, in Mississippi, as the preferred alternative to lead the expansion of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to one billion barrels.  This site selection adds to the SPR's geographic diversity.  In addition to Richton, DOE also proposes to expand capacity at three existing SPR sites: Big Hill in Texas, and Bayou Choctaw and West Hackberry in Louisiana.  Selection of sites is the first step in the process to achieve expansion.

"The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a national asset that can be used in cases of severe disruption supply.  As our nation's use of crude oil increases, so too must our reserve supply, so by preparing to expand the capacity of our Strategic Petroleum Reserve we will be able to accomplish just that," Secretary Bodman said.

As an inland site, Richton will have less vulnerability to hurricane impacts and will be connected by pipeline to the Capline pipeline system and to refiners and marine facilities in Pascagoula for oil distribution.  This new site, coupled with additional storage at the existing three SPR sites, will ensure an adequate crude oil emergency reserve.

To further the site selection process, the Environmental Protection Agency will publish a Notice of Availability in the December 15 Federal Register for the final environmental impact statement (EIS).  The EIS addresses the potential increase of storage capacity by 273 million barrels.  Release of the final EIS concludes a 16-month long proceeding analyzing the environmental effects of possible SPR expansion that included extensive public involvement.  Under this process, DOE's actual decision on the selected sites will not be made until after a 30-day no-action period following publication of the EPA notice.

The site selection process was required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), which included an amendment calling for the creation of additional storage facilities; EPAct further required that the Secretary select from sites previously studied and those new sites proposed by a State.

The SPR is the largest stockpile of government-owned emergency crude oil in the world, designed to provide the United States with an emergency source of petroleum to reduce the impacts of oil supply disruptions and to carry out the obligations of the United States under the International Energy Program.  Established in the aftermath of the 1973-74 oil embargo, the SPR provides the President with a powerful response option should a disruption in commercial oil supplies threaten the U.S. economy.  It also allows the United States to meet part of its International Energy Agency obligation to maintain emergency oil stocks, and it provides a national defense fuel reserve.

The SPR has been used a number of times as an emergency response tool, including during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita 2005, in January 2006 when the Sabine Neches shipping channel was blocked, and in June when the Calcasieu ship channel near Lake Charles, LA, was closed due to release of storm water and oil into the channel.

To read the "Site Selection for Expansion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Environmental Impact Statement" or learn more about DOE's public scoping process, visit: http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/reserves/spr/expansion-eis.html.

Media contact(s):

Craig Stevens, (202) 586-4940

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