The U.S. Energy Department said on Monday it will sell up to 10 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, for delivery in November, extending the timing of a plan to sell 180 million barrels from the stockpile to tame fuel prices.
President Joe Biden's plan announced in March of the largest release of oil from SPR in history had aimed to sell 180 million barrels by the end of October. So far, only 155 million barrels have been sold and the next sale will bring the total to 165 million barrels, the department said.
The sale will be of oil low in sulphur, known as sweet crude, from the SPR's sites in Big Hill, Texas and West Hackberry, Louisiana. Contracts will be awarded no later than Oct. 7. The SPR holds oil in heavily-guarded former salt caverns along the Gulf of Mexico coast.
There is no date set for selling a full 180 million barrels. "As we look to the future, I think what you're seeing right now is us evaluating the current market dynamics and making sure that our releases align with the needs," a senior Biden administration official told reporters in a call about the sale.
High gasoline prices have been a vulnerability for the Biden administration and the deliveries will take place in the same month as the Nov. 8 midterm elections in which the president's fellow Democrats hope to keep control of Congress. U.S. gasoline pump prices have fallen from above $5.00 a gallon in June to about $3.68 today.
The Energy Department has said for months that sales from the SPR had slowed at times this summer due to the need to add a chemical to the crude during extremely hot weather.