Sen. Markey presses DOE over potential contamination in Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Published on May 03, 2019 by Chris Galford

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Following complaints by several companies about purchased oil, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) has written the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding the possibility that the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) has been contaminated.

A variety of companies like Exxon Mobil and PetroChina have reported oil purchases contaminated with high levels of hydrogen sulfide — 250 times the level allowed under government safety standards. That could not only damage the equipment it is being run through but could also injure workers as well under certain conditions. Reportedly, the DOE has already paid $1 million to PetroChina to clean the oil.

“If there are questions regarding the quality of oil in the reserve, it could decrease companies’ interest in SPR reserves and drive down prices they are willing to pay for it,” Markey wrote. “This would harm American taxpayers, who paid for this oil to be acquired, and potentially require more oil to be sold to generate the revenue required by statute further diminishing the power of our federal stockpile.”

There are currently 649.1 million barrels of oil in the SPR. Such a stockpile of crude oil and refined fuels is meant to be used to offset supply disruptions and during emergencies, but contamination calls that capability — and the stockpile’s worth — into question.

That has prompted Markey to question where the DOE paid for or helped clean sold contaminated oil, whether the department has tested the SPR and when, and if the DOE believes reports of contamination have decreased the selling price of SPR oil. He further pressed for the steps the DOE is specifically taking to guarantee the oil is not now or in the future contaminated.