Refill Of Strategic Petroleum Reserve Slowed By Companies Delaying Return Of Borrowed Barrels

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023 - 08:05 PM

Many jokes have been made at the snail's pace at which US is refilling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which we learned yesterday, added another laughable 300k barrels bringing its total inventory to 351.6 million barrels, yet still down almost 300 million from where it was when Biden entered the White House.

And while historically it has been the incompetence of the Biden Department of Energy, under Jennifer Granholm, that was to blame for the incompetent attempts to refill the SPR...

... there is now another reason behind the grossly mismanaged process.

According to Bloomberg, efforts to refill the US emergency oil reserve are being slowed, in part, by companies delaying their return of borrowed barrels.

Shell, TotalEnergies and Chevron were among nine companies that borrowed government oil as part of an exchange program the past two years. Though they were due to repay the crude this year and next, the three companies received US approval to delay about 5 million barrels in returns until 2024 and 2025, according to government documents seen by Bloomberg.

The repayment of exchange barrels has been a key part of the Energy Department’s strategy to refill the emergency stockpile, which has been drained to the lowest level since the 1980s.

While the documents don’t cite the reasons for the delays, the postponements are the latest indication that replenishing the reserve will be a panfully slow and halting process, one which will almost certainly never be completed at a price that is below where the SPR oil was sold, somewhere in the mid-90s.

According to the report, only one company, Phillips 66, has completed its repayment so far but, due to a clever accounting move, the transaction didn’t add any barrels to the reserve. The Houston- based fuelmaker instead repaid its loan with government crude it purchased — but had not yet received — from a previous tender, as well as reserve oil originally purchased by Saudi Aramco’s US trading unit. That means the oil it paid back never actually left the emergency stockpile.

Meanwhile, the Energy Department’s attempts to directly purchase crude for the reserve have already been hampered by disagreements over price and quality, with the agency canceling two bids to buy a total of 9 million barrels this year. So far, the US had bought only 7.5 million of the 12 million barrels it planned to purchase this year.

“That means we remain vulnerable in case a hurricane disrupts supplies or geopolitical tensions escalate,” Hunter Kornfeind, an oil market analyst at Rapidan Energy Group, said.

Kornfeind doesn’t expect the energy department will carry out “mass” purchases and will focus on opportunistic ones. Translation: the DOE will keep buying a few hundred barrels (if that) every other week until the next administration finally replaces the current one.