Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Even with planned sales from its strategic reserves, the United States can still meet its obligations to cover an import shortage, the government said.
A section of the spending bill signed by U.S. President Donald Trump this month called for the sale of barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an asset set up in the 1970s as part of a response to the oil embargo imposed on the United States by Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Last year, the sale of 8 million barrels of light, sweet crude oil from the SPR fell under a measure passed in December 2016 that allowed for the sale of up to $375.4 million in strategic reserves to finance its upkeep and modernization.
In August, the Energy Department approved of swaps out of the SPR to help keep the refineries hit by Hurricane Harvey satiated. Additional sales were permitted under the 21st Century Cures Act, with the revenue supporting a general fund to support health innovation projects as designated under the measure.
A Trump proposal to balance the budget last year relied in part on SPR sales, though recent critics said the reserve shouldn't be used as a piggy bank.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said that the amount of oil stored in the SPR is enough to cover more than 200 days of imports. Commercial stocks separately would support another 170 days or so.
Members of the International Energy Agency are obligated to cover at least 90 days of imports.
"As net imports of crude oil and petroleum products into the United States continue to decline, this requirement can be met with lower SPR inventory levels," the EIA reported.
Total U.S. crude oil imports for the week ending Feb. 9 averaged 7.9 million barrels per day, down about 4,000 bpd from the previous week. The four-week moving average of 8.1 million bpd is 5 percent less than the same period from 2017.
U.S. crude oil inventories, not counting the SPR, increased 1.8 million barrels from the previous week and are at the low-end of average for this time of year, according to federal data.
Assuming no other legislation draws from the SPR, the reserve could decline from its 664 million barrels as of Feb. 16 to 410 million barrels by 2028.