Strategic Petroleum Reserve storage

by Ed Sawicki - April 21, 2020

Oil storage tanks
Ariel view of oil storage tanks in Cushing, Oklahoma

The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve has been in the news lately because of the coronavirus. People aren't driving much during the quarantine and that's reflected in the price of petroleum. The world producers of oil are looking to store a large portion of what they're producing to wait for a time when prices are higher.

However, storage capacity worldwide is nealy full. In the United States, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) storage capacity is almost full as this article is being written. I wanted to get a visual of the SPR's storage facilities. There are four storage locations, each with a large capacity for storing millions of barrels of oil:

*Capacity (millions of barrels)
Bayou Choctaw, LA76.0
Big Hill, TX170.0
Bryan Mound, TX247.1
West Hackberry, LA220.4

Oil storage numbers

I used Google Maps to get a satellite view of these locations to see the storage tanls that make up the SPR storage. I expected to see a large number of storage tanks similar to the satellite photo above of the commercial storage tanks in Cushing, Oklahoma. This photo shows only a few of the hundreds of tanks in Cushing. I couldn't find any tanks. The SPR locations had no above-ground tanks. Turns out, all the tanks are below ground.

Not only are the tanks below ground but they're not tanks at all. They're salt caverns.

Salt cavern
Salt cavern
Salt cavern schematic
Salt caverns diagram
* Capacity in millions of barrels
Bayou Choctaw, LA76.06
Big Hill, TX170.014
Bryan Mound, TX247.119
West Hackberry, LA220.421