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Strategic Petroleum Reserve Receives Prestigious Environmental Award

September 22, 2009 - 1:00pm


Washington, DC - The Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy (FE) announced today that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) has received the Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Project (MVP2) award from the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable for lowering potential greenhouse gas emissions.

This is the first time the SPR has captured the award for its commitment to pollution prevention, focusing on innovation, measurable results, transferability, commitment, and optimization of available project resources.

"This is another example of the hard work and dedication by employees at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve," said Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Dr. James Markowsky. "Not only is the award significant, but it demonstrates how we are working to address climate change issues in our daily activities."

In 2004, a portable degasification (degas) plant was constructed to lower the vapor pressure of the crude oil stored at each SPR facility. The SPR discovered that methane gas intrusion and geothermal heating had increased the vapor pressure of crude oil stored underground to a point where the gas would come out of solution at atmospheric conditions. In its MVP2 project application, the SPR described the greenhouse gas reduction benefits of its degasification plant in converting methane to carbon dioxide. Methane is a major component of crude oil and has about 25 times more impact than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

Operation of the degas plant resulted in lowering the potential greenhouse and volatile organic compound emissions during crude oil distribution at customer facilities. The innovative aspect of the project is that it focused on prevention of pollution from greenhouse gases through the degasification of gaseous crude oil that is not required by regulation or law. It addresses a beyond compliance impact to the environment during crude oil distribution.

The SPR degas plant has been in operation at two sites for the past five years. It has successfully avoided 26,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions (approximately 1,100 metric tons of methane) by using the treated methane gas as fuel for degas process equipment - with excess gas sent to the degas incinerator. The estimated lifecycle of the plant is 25 years. It is estimated that a potential 185,000 metric tons of CO2e emissions will be avoided during crude oil distribution of the entire SPR inventory.

The SPR is the largest stockpile of government-owned emergency crude oil in the world. 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. Presently, the SPR holds over 700 million barrels of crude oil storage capacity in Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast salt domes.