September 1, 2017 / 6:06 PM / a year ago

U.S. energy secretary approves release of more oil from reserve

(Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Secretary has approved the release of up to 4.5 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in response to the impact from Hurricane Harvey, the Department of Energy said on Friday.

That marks an additional 3.5 million barrels on top of the 1 million barrels of oil already approved to be released as of Thursday.

“In response to the impacts from Hurricane Harvey, the U.S. Secretary of Energy has authorized the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to negotiate and execute emergency exchange agreements for up to 4.5 million barrels of crude oil from SPR’s West Hackberry and Bayou Choctaw sites,” Jess Szymanski, a Department of Energy spokeswoman, said in an email.

Refiner Phillips 66 (PSX.N) Lake Charles, Louisiana facility made two SPR drawdown requests for a total of 400,000 barrels of sweet crude and 600,000 barrels of sour crude from the West Hackberry site.

Marathon Petroleum (MRO.N) requested 3 million barrels of sweet crude and Valero Energy (VLO.N) requested 500,000 barrels of sweet crude from the Bayou Choctaw SPR site.

The SPR holds hundreds of millions of barrels of crude in heavily guarded underground caverns in Louisiana and Texas. Congress created it in 1975 amid fears the Arab oil embargo could cause long-term spikes in motor fuel prices that harmed the U.S. economy.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington DC; Writing by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao

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