All of nation's strategic petroleum reserves are in possible path of hurricane Rita

Curious about reserves? Here's some interesting data I haven't seen in media yet:

  • All four of the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) sites are in the possible path of hurricane Rita.
  • Today a daily situation report from the DOE stated that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve sites of Big Hill and Bryan Mound in Texas as well as West Hackberry in Louisiana have been shut down and staff have evacuated in preparation for Hurricane Rita. The Bayou Chactow (Lousiana) site is on Alert Level II and operating. [Source: OFFICE OF ELECTRICITY DELIVERY AND ENERGY RELIABILITY (OE), U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, Hurricane Rita Situation Report #2, issued 1:00 p.m. ]
  • The Strategic Petroleum Reserve serves as an emergency supply of crude oil and is the nation's first line of defense against an interruption in petroleum supplies.
  • The reserves are stored in huge underground salt caverns along the Gulf of Mexico. Cavern depths extend as far as 2000 to 4000 feet below the earth's surface. (While the reserves are underground, their delivery infrastructure is of course, above ground.)
  • When asked whether the reserves were considered vulnerable, DOE spokesman Drew Malcolm told me that the sites were built to withstand CAT 5 hurricane force winds. He also said that due to the nature and depth of the caverns cracks that appear under any circumstances would be instantly closed due to the extreme geological pressures normally present in the caverns. When asked about possible infrastructure damage and resultant difficulties accessing the reserves if needed he said: "We have restart procedures and teams which are dedicated to specific areas and functons. They will reenter the areas immediately after the hurricane passes."
  • When asked about the potential vulnerability of the strategic reserves, David Hinton, a petroleum industry analyst for the Energy Information Administration (in the DOE) told me "I don't know anything about vulnerability...FEMA had called today and asked the same question, and I told them the same thing: We've never discussed it here. No one has ever brought it up." He said he doubted there was any significant threat of damage to the sites, due to their underground location, but there could be problems accessing the reserves due to possible infrastructure damage.

Quote from DOE site: "The Administration has been clear that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a national security asset that can be used to protect American consumers and our economy in the event of a major supply disruption, including natural disasters. " - Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman August 29, 2005

Note: Find up-to-date daily situation reports on energy issues related to RITA here. (upper righthand corner.)

Posted by Picasa