ARKANSAS, January 13 (Future Headlines)- In recent developments, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has initiated the gradual replenishment of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) after a historic sale in 2022. This move comes amidst efforts to stabilize oil markets, particularly following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. To comprehend the intricacies of this process, let’s delve into some key facts and statistics surrounding the SPR and the ongoing efforts to restore its oil inventory.

The SPR stands as the largest emergency oil reserve globally, conceived in 1975 as a response to the Arab oil embargo’s impact on gasoline prices and the U.S. economy. This strategic reserve plays a pivotal role in mitigating disruptions caused by war or natural disasters, storing oil in heavily-guarded underground caverns across four sites along the Texas and Louisiana coasts.

In 2022, the Biden administration announced a historic sale of 180 million barrels of crude oil over six months from the SPR. This decision, the largest ever SPR sale, aimed to exert control over fuel prices amid the geopolitical tensions arising from Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Additionally, a sale of 38 million barrels was conducted in adherence to laws passed by Congress.

Efforts to replenish the SPR involve the administration’s purchase of 13.82 million barrels of domestically produced sour crude oil. This variety, characterized by relatively high sulfur content, aligns with the specifications required by many U.S. refineries for fuel production. Notably, the administration accelerated the return of nearly 4 million barrels to the SPR from loans extended to oil companies. This expedited return is expected to be completed by February, several months ahead of the initially projected mid-year timeline. However, the pace of buybacks faces constraints due to planned life extension maintenance at two of the four SPR sites. Analysts highlight the delicate balance required to avoid triggering oil and gasoline price hikes, particularly in the lead-up to the presidential election in November.

As of now, the SPR holds 354.4 million barrels, with nearly 60% categorized as sour crude. This represents a significant dip from the reserve’s peak of nearly 727 million barrels in 2009. Despite ongoing buybacks, the SPR’s level remains precariously low, prompting criticism from some Republicans who argue that the administration has left the U.S. with a thin supply buffer.

To address these concerns, the administration outlines a three-pronged strategy for replenishing the SPR. This includes direct buybacks, the expedited return of loaned oil, and collaborative efforts with Congress to cancel mandated sales of 140 million barrels of SPR oil through 2027. The latter involves seeking bipartisan support to annul previous laws requiring these sales, emphasizing a shared commitment to national energy security.

During the SPR sale in 2022, the administration sold 180 million barrels at an average price of approximately $95 per barrel. In the current phase of buybacks, the administration aims to acquire oil at $79 a barrel or less. With the current West Texas Intermediate oil price hovering around $73 per barrel, this allows for feasible purchases. However, uncertainties loom, with potential geopolitical escalations impacting oil prices.

The Energy Department holds approximately $3.67 billion in its SPR buyback fund, providing the financial capacity to purchase around 46.5 million barrels at the targeted $79 per barrel price. ClearView Energy Partners, a nonpartisan research group, sheds light on this financial aspect, emphasizing the availability of funds for incremental buybacks through at least May.

Reporting by Moe Khaled; Editing by Sarah White