One billion barrels of oil are soon poised to be stored underground, ready to pump and refine, near the Gulf of Mexico. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) currently is filled to its capacity of 727 million barrels of crude oil, but plans have long been underway to increase the capacity to an astonishing one billion barrels of crude.

The United States Department of Energy hopes to accomplish the expansion by 2018, and numerous steps have begun to start the project. While the project is awaiting funding to complete the expansion, several steps have been taken, and new sites have been identified for storage.

Three locations have been identified for either expansion, or new development. Those sites include:
Richton, Mississippi (160 million barrels)
Big Hill, Texas (80 million barrels)
Bayou Choctaw, Louisiana (23 million barrels)

When these sites came online, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve's capacity would reach 990 million barrels. Richton, which would be home to new facilities, would have sixteen 10 million barrel caverns (underground) built. The project there would involve over 315 new miles of pipelines and two new oil terminals capable of pumping 3.2 million barrels of oil per day.

Current SPR sites and their contents include:
Bryan Mound - holds 254 MMB in 20 caverns - 78 MMB sweet and 176 MMB sour.
Big Hill - holds 170.1 MMB in 14 caverns - 73 MMB sweet and 98 MMB sour.
West Hackberry - holds 228.2 MMB in 22 caverns - 120 MMB sweet and 108 MMB sour.
Bayou Choctaw - holds 73.2 MMB in 6 caverns - 22 MMB sweet and 52 MMB sour.

Some great stats about the SPR from the U.S. DOE:
Fill status - The SPR completed fill on December 27, 2009 with a cargo that arrived and began to unload on Christmas Day. The cargo was 493,000 barrels of Saharan Blend, a light sweet crude that ws delivered to the Bryan Mound site.

Current days of import protection in SPR - 75 days (based on EIA data of 9.70 million barrels/day for 2009 net petroleum imports 2009). Note: the maximum days of import protection ever held in the SPR was 118 days in 1985.

International Energy Agency requirement - 90 days of import protection (both public and private stocks). The United States fulfills its commitment with a combination of SPR stocks and industry stocks.

Average price paid for oil in the Reserve - $29.76 per barrel!

Impressive! Now time to get that expansion to one billion barrels of capacity underway!