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Australia says first in line to buy crude to store in U.S. strategic reserve

Australia is at the head of the queue to buy oil and store it in the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), taking advantage of a glut that has hammered oil prices to 21-year lows, Energy Minister Angus Taylor said on Wednesday.

Australia is close to finalising an agreement announced in March with the Trump administration to lease capacity in the SPR, part of an effort by Canberra to meet its fuel security obligations with the International Energy Agency and a U.S. effort to help U.S. crude producers.

The U.S. SPR has about 77 million barrels of available capacity in contrast to commercial storage worldwide which is rapidly filling up due to the collapse in fuel demand driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

“They’ve been looking for partner countries to work with to use those…storages,” Taylor said of the U.S. government.

“We have been front of the queue. We were the first ones to put our hands up and say: ‘Yes, we want to start doing it,’” he said in a radio interview in Melbourne.

IEA member countries are required to hold emergency oil stocks equivalent to 90 days of net oil imports. As of February, Australia held 56 days of net imports by the standard definition and 81 days worth including oil en-route to Australia.

Taylor said on Wednesday commercial storage facilities in Australia are “essentially full” as the nation’s four oil refiners are still pumping out product, despite having cut output amid a sharp slump in demand for gasoline, jet fuel and diesel.

Longer term, Taylor said he was in talks with Australia’s four refiners about storing fuel in Australia to meet the country’s IEA requirement, beyond holding oil in the United States.

“Ultimately we want local fuel security, of course, and local fuel storage,” Taylor said.

“But in the interim there’s a great opportunity here to buy oil at very, very low prices.”

The owners of Australia’s four oil refineries – Exxon Mobil Corp, BP Plc, Caltex Australia Ltd and Viva Energy Group Ltd – were not immediately available to comment on their talks with the government.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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