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Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy

Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com

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Washington Has Trouble Refilling The SPR After 220 Million Barrel Draw

  • The DoE has received several offers for February purchases to refill the SPR.
  • For February, the plan was to purchase 3 million barrels, ideally when oil dropped to around $70 per barrel.
  • The rejected bids are prompting speculation that refilling the SPR will be challenging, at best.

After drawing over 221 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in 2022, Washington is having a tough time refilling it in the New Year, with the Department of Energy (DoE) rejecting the first offers on the grounds that they failed to benefit taxpayers. 

The DoE has by now received several offers for February purchases to refill the SPR, according to both Bloomberg and Reuters. However, those offers have been rejected as too expensive or failing to meet other requirements. 

For February, the plan was to purchase 3 million barrels, ideally when oil dropped to around $70 per barrel. This 3-million-barrel pilot program would have given sellers a fixed price for future deliveries and is in contrast to the DoE’s normal operating procedure, which had seen it purchase oil for faster delivery without fixed-price contracts. 

Right now, WTI is trading around $75/$76 per barrel, and new data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released on Monday shows another 0.8 million barrel draw from the SPR. 

According to Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources “familiar with the matter”, the DoE will now postpone its originally planned February purchases and embark on a new approach for fixed-price offers. 

“DOE will only select bids that meet the required crude specifications and that are at a price that is a good deal for taxpayers,” the DoE said in a Friday statement carried by news agencies. “Following review of the initial submission, DOE will not be making any award selections for the February delivery window.”

The rejected bids are prompting speculation that refilling the SPR will be challenging, at best.

The plan to fill the SPR, which has reached its lowest level since 1984, might not be attractive enough to sellers, despite the DoE’s efforts at enticement. 

Additionally, the Wall Street Journal speculates that the DoE may not have enough funding to refill the SPR completely. According to WSJ, the DoE has $.48 billion in purchasing power. At the desired $70 per barrel, that would give it enough funding to refill the SPR to 440 million barrels. 

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com


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Leave a comment
  • George Doolittle on January 09 2023 said:
    Technically that facility is an *ASSET* to the entire *GLOBAL OIL INDUSTRY* which needs a safe place to store their oil as near as possible to the World's *LARGEST* oil refining and shipping complex namely Texas and Louisiana so these all sounds like a red herring to me ... but in no way am i an expert in the matter.

    Great up day for Tesla is not a surprise in the least but that is not a buy recommendation unfortunately but yes given the spectacular decline in the stock on no bad news in the least is a problem needs explanation tho.
  • Mamdouh Salameh on January 09 2023 said:
    Washington will indeed find it extremely difficult to refill its SPR after a total withdrawal of 221 barrels in 2022. The reasons are:

    1- US shale oil is a spent force incapable of raising its production to contribute to the refilling.

    2- There is no spare oil in the current tight global oil market.

    3- Oil sellers will either refuse to abide by the Western price cap on Russian oil exports or won’t agree to sell their oil at $70 a barrel as the US Department of Energy (DoE) is demanding.

    Even if the DoE found enough oil to buy, refilling the SPR at a rate of 3.0 million barrels a month will take almost 6 years.

    Withdrawing 221 million barrels from the SPR proved to be an act of futility with hardly any noticeable impact on oil prices. While the Biden administration would like to claim success, the truth of the matter is that the recent fall in oil prices was triggered by China’s lockdown and concerns about global recession.

    Moreover, a withdrawal of this size could prove to be a one-off operation.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert
  • Giorgio Pattarini on January 10 2023 said:
    How's that the DOE doesn't have the funds?
    Where did the revenues from SPR release sale disappear? It was some substantial amount of cash ( 200 mln barrels time 80$/bbl ...)

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